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
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
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
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
The regiment next deployed in 1989,
when the 1st Battalion participated in Operation Just Cause in
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
The most recent deployments, slated
for nine months, began late last year.
[End of Fayetteville Observer
Article – 19 April 2014]