The leaders of Fort Carson’s 4th Infantry Division boarded a plane Sunday night for Afghanistan, where they will lead the fighting in America’s longest war.
Maj. Gen. Randy George, the division’s commander, will be the top operations officer in Afghanistan, managing America’s war effort on a day-to-day basis. It’s George’s fifth deployment overseas since 9/11.
“We have been training hard, and we are ready for this mission,” George said in brief remarks to his staff before heading into a C-17 cargo jet.
George was a colonel in 2009 when he led Fort Carson’s 4th Brigade Combat Team on a yearlong tour in Afghanistan. That deployment saw his soldiers fight in the legendary battle of Combat Outpost Keating. Eight men died, and two survivors of the battle were awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest decoration for battlefield valor.
Being overseas for the holidays is nothing out of the ordinary for George.
“It’s probably harder on the families,” he said. “Once we get over there, we get focused on the mission, and it’s another day.”
George takes over command in Afghanistan as America again battles a resurgent Taliban, which has launched a rare fall offensive in recent days that has killed four U.S. troops in two weeks.
To prepare for the battle, George has met with U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders amid months of careful study of the state of the war.
George had no great proclamations of plans or strategies, but he’s eager to get started.
“We are anxious to get over there,” he said.
George is headed over with another experienced Afghanistan hand, Command Sgt. Maj. T.J. Holland, the division’s top enlisted soldier.
Holland said experience is good but can also be deceiving in the ever-changing battlefields of Afghanistan.
“It’s a complex, new environment now,” Holland said.
Th U.S. spent years working to destroy the Taliban insurgency that now grips significant portions of the Afghanistan countryside. Now, the push is on to broker a peace deal between Taliban fighters and the government in Kabul.
The peace talks have been marked by periodic ceasefires interrupted with flurries of fighting. In recent days, the U.S, has stepped up airstrikes against Taliban targets in an effort that some say could spur peace talks.
George will have familiar forces at hand when he arrives overseas — Fort Carson’s 1st Brigade Combat Team is in Afghanistan.
The deployment of George and his headquarters troops is the latest in a series for Fort Carson.
“It’s been very busy,” George said.
As they prepared to board a plane, the last elements of the post’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team was returning from nine months in Afghanistan.
The post’s 4th Combat Aviation Brigade is deployed, too, with its helicopters split between Europe and the Middle East.
The post’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team is preparing for duty in Kuwait next year. The post also has dozens of soldiers at the U.S.-Mexico border as part of President Donald Trump’s decision to use the military to keep a caravan of immigrants and asylum seekers from Central America from entering the country.
George’s last pep talk to his troops was a brief one, with a businesslike ending.
“OK, let’s load up,” George said.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx