Fort Drum's 2nd Brigade Combat Team is nearing the end of its current Afghan deployment. But staying focused each and every day is more important now than ever. As our Brian Dwyer reports, the brigade has been very successful in getting Afghan forces to take mission lead, but a dangerous fighting season is about to begin.
PAKTIKA, AFGHANISTAN -- Seven months into a nine month deployment, the soldiers of the 2nd Brigade can see the finish line. But the job isn't done. There's still work to do in pushing the Afghans even further into self-sufficiency.
So far, the brigade says it's thrilled with the Afghan's progress, capability and unity that it's seen in numerous missions
"Clearly they are the force," 2BCT Commander COL Dennis Sullivan said from Paktika. "They'll plan their operations. They'll come up with ideas based on the intelligence they have or the orders they receive."
The efforts of the brigade to get to this point that have drawn rave reviews from the higher ups at the Pentagon.
"The assistance piece, kind of putting them in charge, the number of casualties the Afghans are starting to take continues to rise," Army Vice Chief of Staff General John Campbell said. "They're in the fight and they continue to get better each day because of the 'Climb to Glory' soldiers that are around."
But it's work that'll be put to the test very soon. Late August, early September is the time the enemy picks back up and the battles get heavy. Those soldiers who surely can't wait to get home, must stay focused.
"The enemy doesn't care whether we've been here six months or nine months or a year. They would be just as happy killing us on our first day as our final day," COL Sullivan said.
The unfortunate part of war is that that happens. The brigade has already lost four soldiers, including two lieutenant colonels and a civilian contractor.
"We try to learn from them as well as really use those as inspiration to be better at our mission, more focused and more determined. For some soldiers, it gives them something more personal to grab onto," Sullivan added.
And while that staying safe focus takes top priority, there are parts of the brigade getting ready to ship out. Combining its teams and coverage areas, packing stuff up and making room for its eventual replacement, Fort Drum's 3rd Brigade. The two teams recently met up to discuss transition.
Colonel Sullivan says he wants to thank the brigade's soldiers who didn't deploy and says he can't wait for the brigade and their families to be whole again.