By Spc. Robert Holland
3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
Homemade posters and banners filled the normally empty walls of the classroom within the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, headquarters. Quiet whispers and low voices grew more and more excited as word spread quickly throughout the crowd of Families and friends who had decorated the room: the Soldiers were in the building.
Eleven Soldiers with 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd ABCT, who deployed earlier in the year as Security Force Assistance Team N-8 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Wardak Province, Afghanistan, had returned home to Fort Carson. During their nine-month deployment, the team assisted and advised the Afghan Uniform Police in order to increase its capability and proficiency.
A few minutes later, the background music faded to silence and was replaced with the familiar chorus of Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” and the squad-sized team of Soldiers, nicknamed the “Outlaws,” burst through a paper banner, as the sound of their Family member’s cheers and fellow Soldier’s applause, and the tearful smiles of their children and friends greeted them.
The main mission of the SFAT is to advise and mentor its Afghan counterparts on how to improve and develop their logistical, intelligence, maintenance, administration, rule of law and training capabilities.
According to a Stars and Stripes article, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said the SFAT unit model will progressively replace all combat units as the U.S. combat role nears its scheduled end in December 2014. Over the last two years, about 350 3rd ABCT Soldiers, including former brigade commander Col. Mike Kasales, have deployed in support of the SFAT mission in Afghanistan.
As the last group of 3rd ABCT Soldiers arrived home, the Outlaws were preparing to deploy and carry on the brigade’s successful SFAT mission.
“It was a great mission, it was a tough mission and I am really proud of the team,” said Lt. Col. Bryan Webinger, SFAT N-8 team commander, 3rd STB, 3rd ABCT. “They all performed tremendously, and did an amazing job working with our Afghan counterparts.”
Col. Gregory F. Sierra, commander, 3rd ABCT, let the Families know they also played an important role in this deployment.
“Thanks for everything (the Families) have done while your Soldiers were deployed,” Sierra said. “They could not possibly have done this without you.”
Sierra spoke briefly to the returning Soldiers before releasing them to reunite with Family and friends.
“Team Outlaw, you did a great job and we are very proud of what you did.”
Chief Warrant Officer Shannon Colby, SFAT N-8 team member, 3rd STB, 3rd ABCT, said that despite the team’s exciting and engaging mission, he was happy to be back home with his Family.
“We were sent over there to advise the provincial police,” Colby said. “We did a lot of good stuff in Wardak.”
Colby, who has deployed multiple times, said he is used to living in austere conditions, but is looking forward to staying home and relaxing with his wife and children. He is also looking forward to enjoying some of the creature comforts of life not readily found in a deployed environment.
“I just want to go home and be able to take a shower without having to get dressed before going to the bathroom, or having to wear shower shoes,” Colby said. “That is what I am looking forward to.”
Webinger, who is looking forward to the ski season, said the team is glad to be back at Fort Carson.
“We are a little overwhelmed, but are excited and happy to be back,” he said. “It is good to see things are green here, and that there is snow on Pikes Peak.”