FORT RILEY, Kan. (WIBW) -- Fort Riley officials say the 1st Infantry Division helped facilitate a monumental shift in Eastern Afghanistan as they worked to make the region more secure and independent.
The 1st Infantry Division headquarters officially marked its return to Fort Riley Tuesday.
Major General William Mayville, Jr., and Command Sergeant Major Charles Sasser, Jr., the division’s commander and senior noncommissioned officer, uncased the division’s colors during a ceremony at Victory Park- a symbolic act recognizing their homecoming. A crowd of family and friends as well as local and state officials were in attendance.
Nearly 700 staff members and Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion Soldiers deployed last March for Afghanistan, where the unit took command of Regional Command East.
Operating as Combined Joint Task Force-1, the 1st Infantry Division commanded and controlled RC-East, an area roughly the size of Virginia, which included 14 provinces, 7.5 million citizens and 450 km of a mountainous border with Pakistan.
Thousands of soldiers with the 4th Brigade also deployed to help support the 1st ID Headquarters during their mission.
In recent weeks, the soldiers have made their way home and are now reunited with their loved ones.
"We are very excited to be back home at Fort Riley and look forward to spending much needed time reconnecting with our families, friends and our great community," said Major General William Mayville during the ceremony.
"Our focus was on the development of Afghan National Security Forces- making them capable of securing their nation, giving them the tools they need to solve their problems. I’m very proud to report that the Afghans are far more competent and confident in their capabilities- anxious to take the lead. They are on the way to building a safe and secure Afghanistan," Mayville said of the mission the soldiers completed.
Governor Sam Brownback also spoke during the ceremony and commended the troops for their service and hard work overseas.
"It is good to have you home and we are delighted to have you here. As somebody who voted to send troops into combat in Afghanistan as a senator and now as a governor, to welcome you back with the mission close to being finished up, I’m delighted to see it happening. And I’m happy to hear your words too about the Afghans being in a position and ready to take over and to have a secure country that’s not a haven for terrorists," he said. "The heartland loves you, we’ve loved what you’ve done, we’ve prayed for you while you’ve been gone and we’re happy that you’re here! And we hope that you continue to grow and prosper and be a major portion of this state, of this nation. Who knows what the next duty will be but we always know the Big Red One will answer when called."
More than 1,000 Soldiers assigned to various 1st Infantry Division units remain deployed throughout Afghanistan.