The new year will also bring a new deployment. It's off to Afghanistan for the soldiers of Fort Drum's 2nd Brigade. They'll be there for a year, but the usual combat mission the soldiers normally experience will be no more. As our Brian Dwyer reports, the 2nd is working hard to get ready to become advisors and teachers on missions, rather than planners and executors.
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- This deployment will be different. Everything from the main focus down to the number of soldiers going. Out with a full brigade leading the charge and getting the Afghan security forces ready. In with about half a brigade heading over in what can be best described is an advisory role.
"We're now able to, because of their improved competency, take a step back from being the ones that are planning and primary executors of the missions to say, 'Okay, the Afghan Security Forces now can plan the missions and can execute the missions with advice and mentoring at every level,'" 2BCT Commander Col. Dennis Sullivan said.
The mission only calls for a half-brigade to deploy, so those who don't go will train and get ready in case they're called upon. They'll also help the rear detachment, the group that always stays back, taking care of things at home.
But everyone is taking part in this final training test. Everything from setting up communication posts, with what's known as TACSAT radios.
"Afghanistan is very mountainous," Trainer and Communications Specialist SFC Eric Wesel said. "TACSAT radio routes all their voice and data traffic via satellite so they'll be able to reach out and touch their bases over long distances."
To continuously work on understanding everything about roadside bombs. Advisors or not, any deployment is still very dangerous.
"It's important training," Staff Sgt. Matthew Taylor, a trainer with the 3rd BCT said. "What's killing soldiers down range is IEDs. Counter IED training is vital. You can't have too much of it."
They're also working to better understand Afghan culture and language. Advisors have to know.
Colonel Sullivan says his team is really stepping up during this final exercise.
"We're ready," he said. "This is really, we're very ready for the mission. This is the capstone event here today with the last piece of training."
Next week, the soldiers begin three weeks of leave, holidays with the family before spending 2013 overseas.
The soldiers say training in the cold of Fort Drum in December is a good way to get acclimated to what will be similar temperatures in Afghanistan during the early parts of the deployment.