FORT RILEY, Kan. (WIBW) -- The “Big Red One” Headquarters is gearing up to lead a regional command in Afghanistan.
The 1st Infantry Division soldiers will be responsible for an area roughly the size of the state of Virginia.
A ceremony Wednesday marked the final step in the group’s preparations for the year-long deployment. The Army's oldest continuously serving division cased its colors by wrapping up a "Big Red One" flag on Fort Riley's Cavalry Parade Field, representing their official farewell.
The division will be taking charge of the military operations in Eastern Afghanistan, partnering with the Afghan National Security Forces. They’ll be in command of thousands of troops, including soldiers from every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and members of the NATO Coalition Forces.
Last month, Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno visited Fort Riley and reviewed an intense training exercise that the 1st Infantry Division Headquarters conducted. He declared the training event a success. Almost 3,000 military and civilian personnel from five nations and every branch of the Armed Forces were involved in the exercise, known as Unified Endeavor 12-01. They took part from Fort Riley to Germany to Fort Knox, Ky., to Suffolk, Va. The exercise walked the division's leaders and soldiers through the mission they are set to conduct in Afghanistan. Odierno said, "It's clear to me from what I've seen this week they will continue to do an incredible job as they prepare to deploy to Afghanistan."
"We’re at a key part of the campaign. What’s critical is our ability to work with the Afghans, the Afghan National Security Forces in particular, to help them take charge and be in the lead in a very permanent way. It’s about transitioning to getting Afghans to where they can take full sovereignty," said Major General William C. Mayville Jr., Fort Riley's Commanding General. Mayville will be the senior leader of Regional Command East.
"We’re fighting an insurgency, I think, quite successfully and now it’s about developing lasting and enduring solutions- rule of law, local governance and the ability of local governments to provide basic public services," he added.
Over the next few weeks, the soldiers will be getting ready for their mission and saying good-bye to their families.
"I think our division has a good crew and there’s a whole lot of unit cohesion so I think we’re definitely ready for this one,"said Sergeant First Class Juan Torres, accompanied by his wife and three children.
"I’m confident that we’re trained and ready to go. I’m confident in the organization and I think that we have everything we need to accomplish this mission. So we’re looking forward to it. It’s time to get this thing going," General Mayville told reporters. He told the crowd during the ceremony that the troops faced a "touch enemy" and difficult terrain but that their mission is all about building trust and stability and continuing the momentum of the last 10 years of the campaign in war-torn Afghanistan.
The first soldiers of the division headquarters will begin deploying to Afghanistan later this month. Seven hundred soldiers are being deployed.