Bragg troops prepare for possible final trip to Afghanistan
Posted January 16, 2014
Fort Bragg, N.C. — Members of the XVIII Airborne Corps held a casing of colors ceremony Thursday afternoon as they prepared for what could be their final deployment to Afghanistan.
About 450 troops will leave for Afghanistan next Wednesday, but Lt. Gene. Joseph Anderson, Fort Bragg commander, said it's too early to say if this will be for the last time.
"We don't know that. All we know for now is what our mission is – to get over there, get the election done, work through another fighting season and work the transition and set the conditions for a longer presence. I just don't know what that means," Anderson said.
President Barack Obama has said U.S. troops will be pulled out of Afghanistan by the end of this year, and the Afghan army and police are gradually assuming the brunt of fighting in the country.
Retired Gen. Dan McNeill, who commanded Fort Bragg in 2002 and led the post's first troops to serve in Afghanistan, said he believes the dozens of deployments over the past 12 years have made a difference, but more can be done.
"By and large, I think there has been progress," McNeill said. "I don't believe that any of us are satisfied that the amount of progress that has been made to this point is what we had hoped for."
Although the troops might be coming home for good after this deployment, Anderson said the horrors of war will come home with them.
"That's not going away," he said. "Whatever happens December '14, January '15, the issues that soldiers are bringing home with them are real and long-term."