FORT DRUM — Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division's 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams received a formal farewell as they depart for a nine-month deployment.
Soldiers started leaving earlier this week, and most will be in Afghanistan by the end of the month.
During the deployment, soldiers will serve as an assistance brigade to the Afghan security forces. They will be broken into security force advise and assist teams of six to 18 soldiers, which will be teamed with Afghan local police or military forces.
“I'm not going to sugarcoat it ... the mission you have is going to be challenging,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the post and division commander. He noted the historic nature of the work they would do on deployment, as America draws down its troop levels in Afghanistan heading into 2014.
“I know you're up to the challenge,” he said.
About 3,000 soldiers, or roughly half of each brigade, will deploy.
Several hundred people filled the Magrath Sports Complex for the ceremony Friday afternoon, lining the floor as well as the overhanging track.
Col. Stephen L. Michael, 1st Brigade commander, stressed the importance of assisting the drawdown in Afghanistan, since the brigade was one of the first to deploy to the country and one of the first dispatched during America's troop surge that began in December 2009.
“This is exactly what we should be doing,” he said.
Col. Dennis S. Sullivan, the 2nd Brigade's commander, said he and his soldiers, fresh from block leave, were ready for the work ahead of them.
“I think everyone is ready to get on the plane and get started,” he said.
Speaking to media after the event, Gen. Townsend previewed future deployments, indicating that other brigades and the division headquarters were scheduled to deploy this year.
Such actions would continue a long line of deployments for the division in the past decade. Since 2001, brigades from the division have deployed dozens of times for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the division headquarters has deployed five times.