Fort Campbell, KY – Major General Andrew Poppas, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) commander and Command Sergant Major Todd Sims, 101st Airborne Division senior enlisted leader, cased the division headquarters’ colors, April 3rd, 2018 at McAuliffe Hall, in advance of the unit’s next “Rendezvous with Destiny,” a deployment to Afghanistan.
“The next stop for our colors once we case them is back in Bagram, where we have fought and dominated before,” said Poppas before furling the Screaming Eagle colors in front of hundreds of onlookers who attended the ritualistic ceremony. “This is nothing new for the 101st. In the 17 years of continuous combat, the 101st is the most deployed division.”
The 101st Airborne Division headquarters will embark upon its fourth deployment to Afghanistan in the last decade and will replace the Fort Stewart, Georgia-based 3rd Infantry Division headquarters.
Unlike the division’s past deployments to the country, which were focused in the eastern region, the division will oversee NATO’s train, advise and assist mission and U.S. counterterrorism operations nationwide.
Poppas will serve as both the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan deputy commanding general for operations and the Resolute Support deputy chief of staff for operations.
Resolute Support is a NATO-led mission that began January 1st, 2015, following the end of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission and the Afghan National Defense and Security Force’s assumption of security nationwide.
Poppas said that this deployment, and the responsibilities associated with it, will require a herculean effort.
“We are prepared for it,” he said as he explained the current Afghan National Defense and Security Forces’ and forthcoming 101st Airborne Division mission. “We’re ready physically; we’re ready emotionally; we’re ready spiritually. The formation is ready. The Soldiers of this division, in this Army, are as bright and innovative as they are lethal.”
Kentucky National Guardsmen assigned to the Main Command Post-Operational Detachment will join the 101st Airborne Division on its deployment. MCP-ODs result from a unique Department of Defense directive to support active duty units during training exercises and deployments. The Louisville-based unit also augmented the 101st Airborne Division staff during its recent Warfighter Exercise, February 5th-14th.
“As we finished our last exercise, we’ve been able to synchronize the complex combined arms activity down to the most infinite detail on a three-dimensional battlefield,” said Poppas of the competence his staff demonstrated during the Warfighter. “It’s what we do, and we’re able to apply that to Afghanistan. We’ve proven over and over again that we can outthink, outfight and will always dominate whoever we stand against.”
While the division headquarters is deployed to Afghanistan, Brig. Gen. K. Todd Royar, current 101st Airborne Division deputy commanding general for support, will serve as the senior commander on Fort Campbell alongside Command Sgt. Maj. James Manning, his senior enlisted advisor.
“Any deployment is not without sacrifice, and that burden is carried by these Soldiers who will fight gallantly, but it’s also our families, our spouses, our children who give us steadfast love and support while we’re away,” said Poppas. “It’s especially true of our community – Clarksville, Hopkinsville, throughout Kentucky and Tennessee and beyond – this is the community who supports us.”
More than 200 well-wishers were in attendance at the color casing ceremony, including Jenean Hampton, Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, county and city mayors, Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army, Champions of Fort Campbell, Fort Campbell senior leaders and family members.
Poppas thanked the audience, adding that the community and family members continue to enable the 101st Airborne Division mission. He also recognized Vincent Speranza, an Army World War II veteran, who served with Company H, 3rd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
“From Bastogne forward, all the way through the Eagle’s Nest, he is the one, and his comrades who were with him, who have set and earned that reputation of bravery in combat,” said Poppas as the audience responded with a standing ovation to honor Speranza during the ceremony. “And, we’re prepared to build upon that ‘Legacy of Heroism.’
The colors casing ceremony is a traditional Army ceremony that symbolizes the movement of a unit to a new theater of operation. The division’s last colors casing ceremony was February 25th, 2016, before a nine-month deployment to Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.