Alaska soldiers to deploy for Afghanistan within week

About 500 troops from the 4-25th Airborne Brigade are participating in exercise Talisman Saber in the South Pacific. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes/KSKA)
Airborne infantrymen from the 4-25 preparing to jump from a C-17 into Australia during a training mission in July of 2015 (Photo: Zachariah Hughes – Alaska Public Media)

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Military officers in Anchorage said Wednesday that Alaska-based soldiers will start deploying to Afghanistan within the week.

Over the course of the coming month, the Army is sending about 1,200 members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division from Anchorage’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Most of the soldiers will be sent to the eastern part of the country, according to Maj. David Cochrane, the unit’s operations commander. Troops will be advising and assisting Afghanistan security forces.

“We’re partnered with both the Afghan police — uniformed and border police — and then the Afghan national Army,” Cochrane said. “We’re really wanting to help them become more capable, and more able to defend their own nation, to conduct their own missions, and be independent of outside help.”

While the training mission ahead is much less combat-oriented than the unit’s last deployment to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, Cochrane cautioned that it’s still dangerous working in a warzone.

All the service members set to deploy have been told they are going, but officers admitted that communicating those specifics to individuals and families has been a point of confusion over the last few weeks.

The issue stems from how the Army is coordinating unit rotations for the advise-and-assist missions in Afghanistan. Cochrane said it’s a somewhat new development that only a portion of a unit like the 4-25 would be deployed for a role like this, while the majority of its personnel and equipment remains back at the unit’s base.

News that members of the 4-25 would be heading to Afghanistan was announced in April, and is not connected with President Trump’s recent decision to send several thousand more troops to the country.

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Zachariah Hughes reports on city & state politics, arts & culture, drugs, and military affairs in Anchorage and South Central Alaska. @ZachHughesAK About Zachariah