For the fourth time since 9/11, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Headquarters cased its colors to fight overseas under the new leadership of Maj. Gen. John Campbell.
“We’ve invested our blood and sweat” in the fight, Campbell told a crowd gathered outside McAuliffe Hall on post Wednesday morning.
The colors casing ceremony symbolizes the movement of the division to a new theater of operation.
The headquarters battalion came home from Afghanistan in June 2009 but was ordered to return a couple of months early. Around 1,200 troops are deploying with the headquarters battalion.
Campbell, who became commander of Fort Campbell in July 2009 after succeeding Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser, told the crowd this is the most “critical year” for involvement in Afghanistan.
“The Afghans believe more of what they see than what they hear,” Campbell said.
He said the mission in Afghanistan was to protect the Afghan population, enable security, bolster the government and support socio-economic development.
Campbell later elaborated on the mission objectives in Afghanistan. He said after meeting with Gen. Stanley McCrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who both visited Fort Campbell on Friday, it was apparent the mission had changed.
“Any plan, after the first shot is fired, is going to change,” Campbell said. “... We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing for nine years.”
Campbell said a major focus for the 101st troops is training the local police force. While the Afghan Army has shown improvements, “the police have got to come up quite a bit,” Campbell said.
Campbell pointed out that U.S. armed forces are up for the job not just of fighting a war but for helping a struggling country become self-sufficient.
“We’re a disciplined force, but we also know how to treat people with dignity and respect,” Campbell said.
About 20,000 Fort Campbell soldiers are heading to Afghanistan as part of a planned troop “surge.” The deployments started in January, and are expected to conclude this fall.
Five 101st soldiers, all from the 3rd Brigade, have died in Afghanistan since January.
Also Wednesday, an Honor Eagle ceremony was held to introduce the incoming acting senior commander of Fort Campbell, Col. Dominic J. Caraccilo. He will take Campbell’s place in overseeing post operations while Campbell is on his year-long deployment.
Caraccilo has been at Fort Campbell since 2004 and has been deployed for 54 months since 2001. Most recently he has served as the executive officer for the United States Forces-Iraq Commander Gen. Raymond Odierno in Baghdad. He also was the commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team at Fort Campbell from 2006 to 2009.
“I’m indeed happy to be wearing the Screaming Eagle patch again,” Caraccilo said.