2nd Infantry’s ‘Lancer Brigade’ deploys to Afghanistan
Col. Barry Huggins, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, commander, told an audience assembled at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, his "Lancer Brigade" will defend America far from her shores and return with honor in remarks at Watkins Field.
His speech highlighted a morning colors-casing ceremony for approximately 4,000 Lancer Brigade soldiers who will deploy to Afghanistan.
Troops from 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, will join approximately 4,000 fellow JBLM troops in Afghanistan, most from the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
The 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, redeployed from Afghanistan and reflagged as 2nd Brigade in July 2010.
Last February, Huggins said the team expected to deploy for nine months to fight terrorist groups and support Afghan National Security Forces in order to relieve pressure on coalition training teams.
Huggins said regardless of the road ahead, the Lancers were thankful.
"Decades ago, my father served in Vietnam," he said. "When he came home he arrived alone and he was greeted with silence or worse."
Adding, "Today being a soldier is very different. When we make our way through the airport it’s impossible not to be stopped and thanked."
Soldiers from the brigade’s six battalions and headquarters company, undeterred by recent international incidents, said high professionalism remains a standard across the Lancer ranks.
"We’re definitely ready," Capt. Jeffery Wollenman, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, fire support officer, said.
Adding, "I’ve been with the battalion for about a year. We’re a professional organization with good leadership from the top, all the way down to the bottom."
Though the Lancers’ colors will be new to the Afghan area of operations, many of the soldiers who carry it are already battle tested.
Almost 40 percent of those deploying with 2nd Brigade have had Afghan mission experience, and more than a third have deployed to Iraq.
Though Sgt. 1st Class Raul Cantu arrived five months ago at the brigade, the platoon sergeant is one of the battalion’s seasoned leaders; this will be his fourth deployment and his second to Afghanistan.
He said Afghanistan’s lack of modern roads, streets and bridges is one of its fundamental differences from Iraq.
"When people think of Iraq, they may not realize how developed it is. They have a lot more infrastructure and a lot of the things they have there, we have here," Cantu said. "Afghanistan is a lot less developed. It’s very rural and rugged."
As a married soldier with two children, Cantu said he recognized his wife, Mari, who will experience her first deployment this spring, and the other Lancer families will have a lot on their shoulders in 2012.
"I told her she had the most important job of all," he said. "It’s a difficult time for us as a family, but we’re strong – we’ll get through it."
He also said most American people might be surprised to find they have more in common with most Iraqis and Afghans than they realize.
"Most of the people I’ve come across just want to work and provide for their families," he said.
(Editor’s note: This story is based on an article by Dennis Poe and appeared in the Northwest Guardian.)