FORT DRUM As he prepares to lead the 10th Mountain Divisions 1st Brigade Combat Team into Afghanistan early next year, the role of Col. Stephen L.A. Michael could be seen as closing a circle in his Army career.
Shortly after being commissioned into the Army following graduation from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, in 1988, Col. Michael was a rifle platoon leader on post in the divisions 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment. Later, as the battalions logistics officer, he deployed to Somalia as a part of Operation Restore Hope. He also served in Saudi Arabia, Kosovo, Iraq, Ghana, Nigeria and Israel.
Ive taken everything Ive learned at Drum, Ive taken that everywhere else and I think thats whats caused me to be successful, and ultimately come back to be here, he said.
Col. Michael assumed command of the brigade in summer 2011, a role he said he would have never dreamed of when he started his career.
Though this will be the first time in Afghanistan, Col. Michael said his experience will help him in the new deployment.
What Ive learned is being able to work different points with different people, and being able to see and frame problems from somebody elses perspective. ... In many respects its got me ready for Afghanistan, he said.
The brigades deployment was announced by the Department of Defense on Nov. 30. About half the brigade will head to Afghanistan early next year as a security force assistance brigade, supporting Afghan military and police in a role mirroring the 2nd Brigade, which will deploy in a similar time frame. The 1st Brigade last deployed from March 2010 to March 2011.
Col. Michael said the new mission required a change of mindset, but said hes stressed to soldiers the importance of their mission in helping develop Afghan forces to lead in their security. Though his soldiers will serve in an advisory role, Col. Michael said, the bottom line is that in many ways they will still be in combat.
The enemy is not going to make a distinction, he said. Hes not going to say, Were not going to target these guys because theyre advising, and well target these guys because theyre the ones that are out fighting.
Soldiers from the brigade, currently on block leave, will begin heading out for the deployment in January.