U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY SPC. GUL A. ALISAN|
Soldiers from C Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division (L) and C Company, 1-87 10th Mountain Division climbed a mountain in Afghanistan while on a mission earlier this month.
Maj. Gen. Eric Olson's forces
include more than 5,000 soldiers
from the Tropic Lightning Division
GREGG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Eric Olson: He says his first goal is to capture or kill enemies of the United States
Troops: 5,000 25th Infantry Division troops from Schofield Barracks are now deployed in Afghanistan.
In command: Maj. Gen. Eric Olson of the 25th Infantry took command of the primary coalition force in the country.
Mission: The soldiers' duty includes tracking down al Qaida and other terrorists, and helping to rebuild Afghanistan.
Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, assumed command today of Combined Joint Task Force 180, the primary U.S. and coalition force in Afghanistan.
The ceremony was held in Bagram Air Field and marked the transfer of authority from Maj. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division, which has been in Afghanistan for more than a year.
On March 18, before Olson left for Afghanistan, he summed up what he sees as the Tropic Lightning Division's mission during the next 12 months.
"It's first to find and capture or kill the enemies of this nation, whether it be al-Qaida or hard-core Taliban or other terrorist groups," Olson said, "and secondly in the long term to establish a secure environment so Afghanistan can rebuild."
More than 5,000 Schofield Barracks soldiers are in Afghanistan in what the Army describes as the largest deployment of the Tropic Lightning Division since the Vietnam War.
The largest contingent of Tropic Lightning soldiers are the more than 3,500 members of the 3rd Bronco Brigade Combat Team, commanded by Col. Richard Pedersen and stationed at Kandahar. Among the soldiers at Kandahar are the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry (Wolfhounds) and the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry (Cacti).
The Army said the Wolfhounds also are stationed in the eastern province of Paktika, divided between Forward Operating Base Orgun-E and the Firebase at Shkin.
Olson's headquarters is at Bagram, seven miles southeast of the city of Charikar and 27 miles north of Kabul, and also serves as the headquarters for Combined Joint Task Force 180 and its 23 coalition units of 8,000 troops.
Other Tropic Lightning units at Bagram include soldiers from the 325th Support Battalion who will provide logistical support services for task force troops.
The 25th Aviation Brigade with its CH-47 Chinook, CH-46 Black Hawk and OH-58 Delta helicopters will operate from both Bagram and Kandahar.
Combined Joint Task Force 180 was formed in March 2002 as the U.S. military's forward headquarters in Afghanistan.
An additional 4,000 25th Division soldiers are in Iraq for a 12-month deployment.
Since arriving in Iraq in February, the 25th Division has suffered two casualties:
>> On March 11, Pfc. Ernest Sutphin, 21, of Parkersburg, W.Va., was one of seven soldiers riding in a Humvee during a night patrol in Al Hawija when the vehicle rolled into a canal. He was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery. He was taken to a medical facility in Germany, where he was taken off a life-support system on March 18.
>> Earlier this month, Pfc. John D. Amos II, 22, of Valparaiso, Ind., was killed at a checkpoint near the Kirkuk police station by an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 25th Division's 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment (Gimlets) when he died on April 4.