Arrowhead Soldiers deploy to Afghanistan as trainers

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

Posted on: June 21, 2016

Photo By Maj. Randall Stillinger | Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, climb the gangway as they deploy to southern Afghanistan June 11, out of Fort Hood, Texas, in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. They will be joining Task Force Arrowhead as part of the Train, Advise and Assist (TAA) team whose mission is to work with Afghan National Defense and Security Forces at a corps level and higher. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
Photo By Maj. Randall Stillinger | Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, climb the gangway as they deploy to southern Afghanistan June 11, out of Fort Hood, Texas, in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. They will be joining Task Force Arrowhead as part of the Train, Advise and Assist (TAA) team whose mission is to work with Afghan National Defense and Security Forces at a corps level and higher. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs) 

Soldiers of the 36th Infantry Division boarded an aircraft at Fort Hood, Texas, on June 11, on their way to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.

The 45 Soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard are headed to southern Afghanistan as part of the Train, Advise and Assist (TAA) team, and will join a component of senior leaders from the headquarters of the division who deployed the week prior.

"Our mission is to advise and assist the Afghan National Army and Uniformed Police at the corps level and above," said Lt. Col. Alba Melgar-C'de Baca, a plans officer from the 36th Inf. Div. and senior member of the team. "We will be breaking into three groups and are each going to different locations."

Each candidate for the mission was chosen from a list of volunteers, and were then assessed based on their civilian skills and military experience. More than half of the Soldiers are prior members of Security Forces Advisement Teams who have deployed to Afghanistan before.

"We have an amazing amount of talent in this group," said Melgar-C'de Baca. "We have police officers, coaches, teachers and border security agents, so our team run the gambit across the board with talented, motivated folks who all stepped forward and volunteered."

One of the team members is 2nd Lt. Jake Folgate, who works with at-risk teens at the Texas Challenge Academy in Eagle Lake, Texas. He’s excited to put his law enforcement education and experience into practice overseas. 

"I'm really enthusiastic and passionate about this mission," said Folgate, a 24-year-old graduate of Western Illinois University's Law Enforcement program. "I'm really looking forward to my first deployment and starting this mission with the Afghan Uniformed Police."

For many of the Soldiers, including Folgate, this will be their first deployment overseas. Although it's not necessarily a combat deployment, the team is excited and maybe a little nervous, said Melgar-C'de Baca. But they will have friends around them and no one is going alone, so I think that eases their minds a little bit.

"I know ya'll are the best trained, the best equipped, and are the finest Soldiers in the U.S. Army inventory, bar none, because you are all members of the 36th Inf. Div.," said the Assistant Division Commander for Support of the 36th Inf. Div., Brig. Gen. Rick Noriega, moments before the TAA members boarded the plane. "We wish you the best and salute you for who you are, and what you do. Make us proud.”