On the heels of a Pentagon announcement that the 3rd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion will deploy to Afghanistan, the commander of the 3rd ID and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams, said the order was not a surprise at a press conference Thursday afternoon at 3rd ID headquarters.
“First of all, I want to express my sincere appreciation to the people of Coastal Georgia for their support for our soldiers and their families,” Abrams said, after reading a statement about the Department of the Army’s order to deploy in August. “This is the mission our country has called us to do. Our soldiers and their families knew the call would come. The notice was not a surprise. We had a ‘heads-up’ about it a couple months ago, (so) I led a pre-deployment site survey to Afghanistan in December.”
Abrams said he will serve as commander of the Regional Command South, one of four International Security Assistance Force regional commands responsible for all ISAF operations in Afghanistan. The division headquarters battalion includes about 700 3rd ID soldiers from various staff components and support elements, he said.
“I will have operational and tactical command of this region, which is located at Kandahar Airbase,” he said, then explained how his troops are training to prepare for the deployment. “Obviously, it’s geographically different from Iraq. Our soldiers are training for a different climate, terrain, language and culture.”
He assured reporters of his confidence in 3rd ID soldiers, whom he commended for their “incredible resilience,” whose families willingly make sacrifices because they’re proud of their soldiers and their service to this country. When asked why the division headquarters battalion was excluded from the new 9-month Deployment Period Policy, he said it was important to maintain a “continuity of command,” so a 12-month tour was necessary for command groups.
“Operations in Iraq were largely U.S.-led,” he explained, noting it was easier for one U.S. command group to replace another. “Operations in Afghanistan are 90 percent led by (NATO) with combined, joint headquarters.”
Two battalions representing 1,500 soldiers with the 3rd ID’s 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team have already been slated to deploy this year. The 1st Battalion, 30th Inf. Regt. will deploy to Afghanistan next month, and the 3rd Battalion, 64th Armor Regt. will deploy in April. Abrams said one these battalions will fall under his command when he arrives in August, but he did not specify which one.
The general said this is his first deployment to Afghanistan and first time deploying as commander of the 3rd ID. He said he last deployed to Iraq in 2005 with the 1st Calvary Division.