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'Rakkasans' deploy to assist Afghan forces

October 2, 2012

By Sgt. Alan Graziano

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Oct. 2, 2012) -- The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) is preparing to assume responsibility from 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division this weekend following their deployment to Eastern Afghanistan.

Now on their sixth deployment since the Global War on Terrorism began in 2001, the "Rakkasans" are one of the most deployed brigades, and also one of the last units to deploy as a brigade combat team, or BCT, as the Army transitions to Security Force Assistance Teams.

"We're excited, we're ready to start working and get a feel for it because this is what we trained to do, this is our profession," said 2nd Lt. Brian Asman, platoon leader, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

"Most of my team leaders on up have deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan, so they're seasoned veterans. We're going to look to them to kind of set the example with their combat experience," he said.

The Soldiers spent the past year preparing for the deployment, engaging in live-fire exercises, counter-improvised explosive device, or IED, training, call-for-fire exercises and classes trained Soldiers on equipment, tactics, cultural awareness and support operations.

As the mission in Afghanistan has changed from a combat to a support role over the past year, much of the training has reflected this transition.

"A lot of it is just learning how to partner with the Afghan National Security Forces because it is their fight over there. We're just supporting them," Asman said.

Asman has been a platoon leader for less than five months. This will be his first combat deployment, he said.

"The biggest training event that we had over the course of that time was when we went down to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana," he said. "We spent a month down there and it was good because it was very situational-based training, which culminated in a week-long, force-on-force battle with the role players down there, who simulated anti-coalition militants."

"It prepared us for what we're going to experience in Afghanistan," Asman said.

Two weeks ago, the brigade's Soldiers and their families arrived at their various headquarters buildings carrying several bags of gear to the staging areas, and spent the next few hours together. Soon, the family members would say goodbye to their Soldiers, who were about to deploy to Afghanistan for the next several months.

One spouse who is providing this kind of support is Amy Chavez, the wife of Sgt. 1st Class Augustine Chavez, from Columbus, Ohio and a member of a Security Transition Team in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd BCT. She has been taking care of their daughters, Chloe and Eva.

"I think I'm a pretty strong individual and I think that he knows that his children will be taken care of financially; and because we'll be with family, his children will have love and attention and he will just know that everything at home is taken care of so he can do his job properly," Chavez said. "Just know that we'll be here for him as soon as he comes home."

Augustine Chavez talked about what will make the deployment especially difficult for him.

"Not being there to see (my kids) grow up or see new things they do, especially when they're so young," he said. "When they start talking and walking, or learning their ABC's and colors, and all the moments you miss when they grow up. Especially when they're so young -- they don't understand why you're gone, so they ask questions that are difficult to answer."

Luckily, Amy Chavez said she has some ways to make things a little easier for the kids.

"We did a couple of recordable books, where he can read the girls a story every night; then we did the Build-a-Bear with his voice inside of it, and they'll get that for Christmas," she said. "We'll probably make a DVD and watch daddy on TV every day (to remember) the fun stuff that they've done."

Amy Chavez said she will also be sending letters in the mail and talking with her husband on Skype, an online communication program. In essence, spouses greatly assist in keeping their Soldiers in the fight while they are deployed.

"I don't have any doubt that my wife is going to take care of my children," Augustine Chavez said. "It's going to be fine, and I know that."

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