More than 7,500 Fort Carson soldiers are now on official orders to Afghanistan next spring and hundreds more are expected to join them as the 4th Infantry Division headquarters and two of its combat brigades head back to war.
The deployment, rumored for months and made official by the Army Thursday, involves the 3,500-soldier 2nd Brigade Combat Team and the 4,000-soldier 1st Brigade Combat Team. The division's headquarters, including its boss Maj. Gen. Randy George, are expected to head out to lead the brigades in battle.
While Fort Carson won't release exact numbers, the total deployment could approach 10,000 of the post's 24,500 soldiers.
Officials from the post wouldn't answer questions Thursday, but issued statements from the brigade commanders involved.
"Our formation of soldiers are fit, inspired, disciplined, and trained. We couldn't do this without our families and owe special thanks for their willingness to stand by our most precious resource - the American soldier," said 1st Brigade's Col. Monté L. Rone.
The brigades have been training for months. Soldiers from 1st brigade loaded their eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles on trains last week for a trip to a mock war at Fort Irwin, Calif., in January. Troops from 2nd Brigade just wrapped up a similar exercise at Fort Polk, La.
"The 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division has a proud deployment history in support of operations in Afghanistan," said 2nd Brigade's Col. David Zinn. "Our War Horse soldiers are trained, ready, and are honored that the Army has selected our unit for the deployment."
Zinn's unit, an infantry formation with few armored vehicles, has earned accolades on previous trips to Afghanistan. Three of its soldiers have earned the Medal of Honor for combat there since 2009.
The 1st Brigade will head for its first wartime deployment since its soldiers traded in 72-ton M-1 tanks for eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles. The reorganized brigade has a mix of ground-pounding infantry and wheeled mobility that allows it to strike quickly.
The units will head to a war with new rules. President Donald Trump last summer pledged that his strategy will seek a victory in Afghanistan with soldiers unfettered by highly-restrictive rules of engagement.
Trump in an August speech said soldiers will be expected to hunt down Taliban fighters and Al Qaida terrorists.
"These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide; that no place is beyond the reach of American might and Americans arms," Trump said. "Retribution will be fast and powerful."
The new kind of war has been accompanied by a new style of training for Fort Carson troops. On previous deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers got about as much training on dealing with local officials as they received for traditional Army tasks like firing artillery.
In recent exercises, Fort Carson soldiers have seen a larger emphasis on combat with commanders preparing them to face a highly-skilled enemy.
Defense Secretary James Mattis on a four-nation trip through the Middle East this month signaled that he wants increased pressure on the Taliban to bring the militants to the negotiating table to strike a long-term peace deal for the strife-torn nation.
The deployment, expected to run about nine months, will start in the spring for the brigades. The timing of the division headquarters deployment hasn't been announced.
The deployment comes after an already busy period for the post. Fort Carson's 3rd Brigade Combat Team recently returned home after nine months in Eastern Europe.
Elements of the post's 4th Sustainment Brigade assisted in hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico and Texas.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240