Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy
Posted On: Feb. 02, 2017
AUSTIN, Texas – Soldiers of the 36th Infantry Division, their families, and their friends gathered for a ceremony at Cameron Field at Fort Hood, Texas, on Jan. 28, to send off “Task Force Arrowhead” as they deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. The Austin-based unit is part of the Texas Army National Guard and is headquartered at Camp Mabry.
The detachment of over 50 experienced officers, warrant officers and senior enlisted T-Patchers will be replacing the current Train Assist and Advise Command group, also from the 36th Inf. Div., who deployed last year.
"We will be taking over responsibility for the Train, Advise and Assist Command-South mission, which includes 4 Afghan provinces and 42 districts," said the incoming TAAC-S Commander, Brig. Gen. Chuck Aris, a native of Waxahachie. "We will assume command of Australian, Bulgarian, and Romanian Troops, and U.S. Army Soldiers from the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. All Soldiers will be working under a NATO-led mission to help the Afghan people."
In 2014, the regional commands transitioned to a Train, Advise and Assist Command (TAAC) structure, advising Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to promote the long-term success of these institutions and the sovereignty of the Afghan government. Two-thirds of the Soldiers will be deploying to Afghanistan; the rest of the service members will mobilize but remain stateside. Those remaining in Austin will serve as intelligence analysts and advisors to those deployed. The remote capability is made possible by the advances in today's modern combat technology and communications systems.
"We are a team of teams," said Aris. "We have selected our best to ensure that we will excel at this mission… and we have trained for more than a year and a half to build a world-class team. This group has already shown amazing skill, expertise, training and a deep commitment to what they do."
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kirk A. Burns, who is deploying with the task force, explained that the group is comprised of experienced service members who have been chosen from across the whole division. They are both civilian and military experts in their fields: law enforcement; legal advisors; medical staff; aviation operations; and computer systems.
As a civilian, Burns works for the Texas Department of Public Safety's Cyber Security division and as a computer science professor at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. In the Army National Guard he is a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot and tactical operations aviation officer. This will be his fourth overseas deployment, having served in Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Kuwait, and now Afghanistan.
"I'm looking forward to advising our Afghan counterparts and sharing some of my experience in aviation with the Afghan military," said Burns. "The more we have talked with our counterparts, the more I have realized that the Afghan government and military truly wants our assistance. They want to protect their country from the outside influences that are keeping it so unstable. They really seem to want to partner with us and learn from us."
At the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Commanding General of the 36th Inf. Div., thanked the citizen-Soldiers for their service to Texas and our nation. He also thanked their families for their support, and continued sacrifice as their loved ones are called upon to serve overseas.
"To the parents and children, husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters of those headed overseas - you are the unsung heroes of a nation at war," said Simpson. "You undoubtedly serve through your personal sacrifice and your commitment… and I want to personally thank you for your support and your strength. Because without you, we couldn't do what we do and are called upon to do."
To the Soldiers deploying, the division commander concluded with this encouragement:
"You'll be working hand-in-hand with our allies and our host nation to bring peace and stability to a complex region," Simpson said. "I have complete confidence that you will continue the legacy of exemplary performance that we've become known for, and will return at the end of your tour with pride knowing that you've achieved great things in the name of the 36th Infantry Division."