***image1***Hundreds of 29th Support Group Soldiers in Kaiserslautern will depart for Afghanistan Saturday to perform their mission in the Global War on Terrorism.
The deployment marks the first time since Vietnam the unit’s colors have been moved into a combat zone. It is also the first step in the formation of a Joint Logistics Command that will involve more than 1,100 Soldiers from the KMC.
Col. Walter J. Sawyer, the 29th SG commander, said his Soldiers face a huge mission – supplying all U.S., coalition and Afghani forces in the region.
These Soldiers will be doing everything from transporting supplies to providing rear-area security. The prospect of working side-by-side with other forces has many of the troops excited.
“It will be a big adjustment. Adjusting to the culture, adjusting to how the other services and the other coalition soldiers we’ll be working with operate …,” said Spc. Richard Reveles, Headquarters, Headquarters Company 29th SG. “But I’m very excited. I want to see what is going on there. And I also want to use this year to focus on professional development.”
The departure of the 29th SG is part of an ongoing process. Soldiers from the unit and its six subordinate commands have been deploying to theater since November and will continue until all elements are in place in July. The KMC troops will be joined by other Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines from 38 different units.
Some elements will also include Guardsmen and Reserve Soldiers based in Europe, Puerto Rico, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
“This will make the new JLC one of the most diverse units on station worldwide – from the group headquarters down to the squad and team level,” said the colonel.
Merging so many different units into one cohesive force, while literally moving mountains of material and supplies every day may seem daunting for most people, but Colonel Sawyer said the unit is ready.
“We are more than ready to get at the job that we’ve been training for over the past eight months,” he said. “Our biggest challenge will be the environment and the things we couldn’t train for here in Germany.”
One factor is the sheer size of the unit’s new area of operations, he said. As the JLC, the command will be responsible for all logistical support throughout Afghanistan, in addition to running other operations in Uzbekistan and Kuwait.
“That’s a lot of ground to cover,” Colonel Sawyer said. “Afghanistan itself is larger than the state of Texas. The base at Bagram is more than 5,000 feet above sea level. So weather and altitude will also be factors.”
The challenges of this deployment won’t just affect the deploying Soldiers and their families – a substantial number of the unit’s Soldiers will stay in Europe as a rear detachment.
“Those folks probably will have the hardest job of all. In fact they are taking on two jobs,” Colonel Sawyer said. “The rear detachments will continue to support the central region mission and maintain the current standards here in Europe. Then they have the very important job of supporting the JLC downrange. And most important of all, they will be taking care of our families.”
Colonel Sawyer offered encouragement to Soldiers during the casing ceremony March 11.
“Next year when you get back home, you will stand a little taller and walk a little prouder. Because you will always know that your sacrifices made a difference in the security and stability of millions of freedom-loving people around the world.”