Historic First Army Deployments End With Warm Welcome Home
After several months of deployment for a train-and-advise mission supporting the Afghanistan National Security Forces, First Army Division West Soldiers were celebrated in a 'Welcome Home' ceremony.
Fifty-seven Soldiers that composed six Security Force Assistance Advisor Teams were honored for their direct support of the U.S. shift from kinetic to advisory operations in Afghanistan where they worked side-by-side with their counterparts in the Afghan army, police and border police.
The SFA ATs are teams of highly trained officers and noncommissionedofficers whose primary role is to mentor Afghan units and help them achieve levels of proficiency where they can lead and conduct independent security operations.
"Our main mission was to advise the Operational Coordination Centers, which are the only true joint organizations in the Afghan Security Forces, said Lt. Col. Bob Pilkin, 181st Infantry Brigade, of Fort McCoy, Wis. "We basically coordinated across all pillars of the Afghan National Security Forces to make sure they were all on the same page, tracking the same [intelligence] and operational data.
"The OCC system was put in place to facilitate crosstalk for joint planning and coordination efforts. The only way they are going to get forward, move ahead, is to work together," he said.
"It took us a little while to get our feet on the ground and build those relationships we needed in order to be successful, but we ultimately accomplished that," Pilkin said. "We got a lot of things done, to include building an institutional training course for OCCs that's going to be implemented across Afghanistan."
First Army Division West Commanding General Maj. Gen. Perry L. Wiggins thanked the Soldiers and Families, and shared his thoughts on the mission - which for First Army Soldiers - is especially unique. First Army hasn't deployed into a theater of operations as an organization since World War II
"Wearing the cloth of our nation is not easy," Wiggins said. "The sacrifice that many of you feel ... and the sacrifices that our families feel are something that we have done numerous times. Our nation, our citizens, owe you a great debt of gratitude. I congratulate you absolutely.
"The other thing I'd like to bring to your attention is ... the 'Big A' patch that you see on your left sleeve," Wiggins said, referring to the First Army shoulder sleeve insignia.
"It is one of the most storied and historic organizations in our Army. The First Army patch has been worn by distinguished leaders throughout our history. Something that caught me when you came in through the door is that it is (also) being worn on the right sleeve." he said, noting that the SFA AT Soldiers had earned the First Army insignia for wear as a combat patch.
"That's history," he said. "That's a legacy."
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