FORT RILEY, Kan. (WIBW) -- In a symbolic ceremony on Fort Riley Thursday, the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat team cased its colors, marking its last step in preparing for a nine month deployment to Afghanistan.
Three thousand Dragon Brigade soldiers will join the 1st Infantry Division’s headquarters in Eastern Afghanistan where the "Big Red One" is leading a regional command. They took charge of military operations in an area roughly the size of Virginia a week ago, on April 19, 2012.
Operating as Combined Joint Task Force-1, the 1st Infantry Division will command and control operations throughout RC-East which includes 14 provinces, 7.5 million Afghans and 450 km of a mountainous Pakistan border.
This is the "Dragon" brigade’s third deployment since it was activated at Fort Riley in 2006. The soldiers have done two rotations to Iraq but this will be their first deployment to Afghanistan. The brigade’s mission is to enable Afghanistan’s government, security forces and economy to operate more independently.
"We will be in arguably the most complex combat environment and physically demanding terrain while in ruthless pursuit of insurgent networks. We will enable the transition of the Afghan government and security forces to move them firmly in the lead. Afghans leading Afghans is our goal, our charter while we’re there," said Colonel Joseph Wawro, the Brigade Commander during his address at Thursday's ceremony on the Calvary Parade Field.
"We will continue with our Afghanistan partners as we enable them to have governance, security and economical development within the area and the region that we will be in," Wawro told reporters.
"Dragon" soldiers have endured a year of intense training both at the National Training Center and Mountain Warfare Center to prepare for the extreme altitudes they’ll be fighting in.
As they gear up for their mission, the troops are trying to spend as much time as they can with their loved ones before they leave and have to say good-bye.
"It just goes back to a little anxiety for a lot of the soldiers because they have been training so hard, well over a year now, and they’re ready to go over there and do the Army’s will and at the same time, prepare their families for the deployment," said Lieutenant Colonel David Wood.