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Rakkasan mission going well in Afghanistan

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Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 12:00 am

Forty-five days into their mission, the Rakkasans are rocking steady in Afghanistan.

Col. R.J. Lillibridge, commander for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), said the Rakkasans have completed a successful transition into their combat mission in the Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces. Their mission is a part of a larger undertaking to transfer control of combat operations to the Afghan National Security Forces.

“What we’ve seen so far is the NSF … have really improved since we left back in January 2011,” Lillibridge said. “So far, I think our deployment is going better than anticipated.”

The transition of control is part of the Army’s goal of withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2014. Lillibridge said the 3rd Brigade has been working with its Afghan partners so they will be able to take over operational control. The Afghan forces have started running several combat operations with little to no help from the 3rd Brigade.

“The mission is going really very well so far,” Lillibridge said. “The NATO mission here is going to get smaller between now and 2014, and our Afghan partners know that.”

The Afghan forces have been able to do so largely because they have improved since the brigade’s last deployment. Lillibridge said the Afghans are better at conducting military operations and more professional because they have the desire to take control of their country.

“The Afghans keep getting better,” he said. “They’re winning the fights over here. They want to be responsible for their country.”

The 3rd Brigade started deploying in late summer and officially took control of its areas of operations in October. Generally, fighting slows down in the winter months because of the weather in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan. However, the Khost province has much milder temperatures, and Lillibridge said he does not think the fighting will wane.

With the combat mission going so well, Lillibridge said he does not foresee any threats to the transition. However, he said the brigade’s greatest challenge is complacency. The units go long periods without seeing any conflict, he said, and it can be easy to fall into habitual laziness.

The key to combating the complacency, he said, is continuing to do the job well every day.

The Rakkasans are more than a month into a nine-month deployment. This is their sixth deployment since the start of the war in Afghanistan.

Carla Jimenez is a reporter for the Kentucky New Era. Reach Carla at 270-887-3262 or cjimenez@kentuckynewera.com.

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