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4th BCT News (1) 4th BCT News (2) 4th BCT News () 4th BCT News (4) Archives

Afghanistan - Spring 2014

508th PIR Kept Focus on Mission as Deactivation Loomed for 4th BCT

The following is a reprint of an article by Drew Brooks in the Saturday, 19 April 2014 edition of the Fayetteville Observer. Brooks is currently Military Editor at the Fayetteville Observer.

CAMP PHOENIX, Afghanistan — They call it the “deployment brigade.’’

Of all Army brigades, it is hard to imagine any have spent a larger share of their existence in Afghanistan than the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. Created in 2006 during Army restructuring, the 4th Brigade was first called to action less than a year later when it deployed to eastern Afghanistan. Since then, almost like clockwork, the brigade’s battalions have served in Operation Enduring Freedom, totaling nearly three years, four months and counting in Afghanistan.

Most recently, the 4th Brigade sent parts of two battalions — the 1st and 2nd of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment — to Afghanistan in late 2013 and early this year. Already, those battalions have been moved out of the 4th Brigade, which is set to be deactivated this summer as part of another round of restructuring. When the soldiers return to Fort Bragg, they will find themselves in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team and 2nd Brigade Combat Team, respectively.

In Afghanistan, soldiers of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment have largely been insulated by those moves. Their commanders have not changed, nor have their links to home. Many of the soldiers still identify by their old brigade and take pride in the number of times the unit has been called on to serve in Afghanistan. And, because of the relatively short life span of 4th Brigade, a small number of the soldiers now deployed have witnessed all of the unit’s history overseas.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Wrenn, a nearly 13-year veteran from Landrum, S.C., said he is proud to be among the few to have deployed each time 4th Brigade — known as Fury Brigade — has been called to duty. Wrenn joined 4th Brigade in February 2007. At the time, he was a specialist with one deployment to Iraq on his resume. He did not stay at Fort Bragg long, though, as he soon traveled to meet with the brigade, which already was in eastern Afghanistan. Two years later, Wrenn and the brigade again deployed. Then-Sgt. Wrenn served from August 2009 to August 2010 in Herat in western Afghanistan. In 2012, he and the rest of the brigade served the better part of eight months outside Kandahar, fighting the Taliban in the birthplace of their founder, Mullah Omar.

After the third deployment, Wrenn said, there was a small group of soldiers who had deployed every time, but that group has largely moved on. Now, Wrenn doesn’t know of any other soldiers who have served in each of the 4th Brigade’s deployments. He could have missed the latest deployment. But plans for him to move to a new unit were abandoned when he was promoted to sergeant first class. “I’ve been here a while,” said Wrenn, who is assistant operations sergeant for the Camp Phoenix-based battalion. “And I’ve gotten a lot of good experience. I grew up in this brigade.”

According to the 82nd Airborne Division, the 4th Brigade Combat Team will case its colors in a ceremony May 15 on Fort Bragg. The brigade commander, Col. Timothy Watson, said the brigade has made significant contributions in its short history with the 82nd Airborne Division. He praised the 1st and 2nd battalions for continuing that tradition. “Throughout these last eight years, the (brigade) has performed exemplary in combat and sacrificed much on behalf of our nation,” Watson said. “While we’re saddened that 4th BCT’s time is nearing its end, the legacy of the (brigade) and the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment lives on in those paratroopers who remain in 1st and 2nd battalions, 508th PIR, and those 4th BCT troopers who have departed to serve in other units across the Army.”

Wrenn and other 4th Brigade veterans will miss the ceremony and said leaving the brigade is bittersweet. Already, the soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Division can see progress. Unlike previous deployments where they were constantly patrolling and looking for fights, the Afghan national security forces are now in the lead. Instead of fighting, the soldiers are filling other roles, such as moving advisers and trainers around the battlefield and protecting forces from insider attacks. Wrenn said he wants the progress to continue. Ultimately, he said, he hopes the U.S. is seen not as invaders but nation builders. “I’ve got a son. I really don’t want my child to ever have to come over here,” he said.

About 4th Brigade Combat Team

Created in 2006, the brigade’s lineage dates to World War II. The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment joined the fight in World War II in 1944 in England and later participated in Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944, jumping into Normandy, France. The regiment captured and secured the town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise and established a defense line north from Neuvill-au-Plain to Breuzeville-au-Plain. The 508th fought German forces until it was relieved July 7, 1944.

Later in 1944, the regiment participated in Operation Market Garden in Holland and seized Waal River Bridge in the Groesbeek-Nijmegen area.

After the war, the 508th was split between 1st and 3rd brigades and served in the Dominican Republic in 1965 and in 1966 as part of Operation Powerpack.

The 2nd Battalion, 508th PIR went to Vietnam with its brigade in response to the Tet Offensive and earned the Presidential Unit Citation after seeing heavy fighting in Hue and Saigon.

The regiment next deployed in 1989, when the 1st Battalion participated in Operation Just Cause in Panama.

As part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the battalion participated in the largest combat airborne operation since World War II when its paratroopers jumped into northern Iraq in 2003.

On June 14, 2006, the regiment became the core of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. Seven months later, it deployed to Afghanistan for 15 months.

Other deployments to Afghanistan were in August 2009, when paratroopers mentored more than 44,000 Afghan security forces as part of the first advise-and-assist brigade in Afghanistan, and in February 2012, when the brigade battled the insurgency in a Taliban stronghold as part of Operation Righteous Endeavor.

The most recent deployments, slated for nine months, began late last year.

[End of Fayetteville Observer Article – 19 April 2014]


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