JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD Although the almost 13-year war in Afghanistan is winding down, the mission is not over. Nobody understands that more than units who are deploying this year to continue to support the Afghan government and its people.
The 109th Military Intelligence Battalion, with members of the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion and the 602nd Forward Support Company, held a casing ceremony May 9 at Soldiers Field House on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. They could be some of the last Soldiers to deploy to the region.
I feel this deployment will be a capstone on a road of long, hard deployments for Soldiers and family, said Staff Sgt. Christopher B. Wright, operations NCOIC for the 109th MI Bn.
This will be the 109ths third deployment since 2008, when the battalion was reactivated. The unit deployed to Iraq in 2009 and Afghanistan in 2012.
Many of them were deployed last year and will return to locations familiar to them, said Col. Daniel E. Soller, 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade commander, during his speech at the ceremony.
Team leader Sgt. Brittany Dale said she was excited about her return to Afghanistan.
It feels like home there, she said. Its the only time we can actually do our job, and not just train. It feels great that we will be able to help protect Soldiers.
The 109th MI Bn. already provides home-station support from JBLM for ongoing missions across the globe, including Afghanistan, the Pacific and Africa. This deployment will allow them to be on the ground providing multi-disciplined intelligence across Afghanistan, in support of Regional Command East, Wright said.
In addition to signals intel, we engage with the local population on a human level in order to find out whats going on, whether its good or bad, Wright said. This can provide early warning for units who may be in danger, as well as counterintel and other mission-critical support.
The battalion has been preparing and training since its return in February 2013. Each subordinant element had its own training mission.
The 502nd MI Bn. commander, Capt. Charles Gill, said it was the hardest training schedule hes seen to be completed in a year, but the troops worked hard from the beginning.
Wright catalogued some of the training Soldiers have been completing over the last year, including human intelligence collection, interrogation techniques and language training.
Soldiers with a language skill identifier attached to their military occupational specialty trained at the Foreign Language and Culture Center on JBLM.
We dont usually translate, but the ability to understand languages increases our ability to effectively complete the mission, Wright said. Many Soldiers use the language center on base to increase and maintain their linguist abilities.
Soldiers also traveled around the country for various schools, and contractors instructed them at JBLM, all in preparation for their deployment.
This is the best brigade you can be in, Dale said. They afford the resources and time so you can get the training you need.
Wright said being prepared with proper training is especially important for this particular deployment.
Because of the reduction of forces in Afghanistan, our mission is very critical to the overall mission, Wright said. There will be less support for units, so we need to get them timely and accurate information to help counteract threats.
Dale said this is why she does her job.
If theres a threat to any guys out there we can take the information we collect and warn them, Dale said. Its good to know we can help save lives.