JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska –
Friends, family and Alaska community leaders gathered at Sullivan Arena Tuesday as paratroopers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, formally marked the departure for the unit's latest combat mission to Afghanistan.
About 3,500 airborne-qualified Soldiers from the six battalions of the 4-25th are scheduled to leave over the next few weeks for the 12-month deployment.
Among the dignitaries on hand to wish the brigade a safe departure, mission and return were Gov. Sean Parnell, U.S. Army Alaska Commanding General Maj. Gen. Raymond Palumbo and U.S. senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski.
In his remarks, Palumbo noted the high level of dedication from the entire Army since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Palumbo said the paratroopers of the 4-25 embody that commitment.
"(The) enemy no longer enjoys Afghanistan as a safe haven," Palumbo said. "4-2-5 (ABCT) is trained and ready to go."
Palumbo also spoke to the readiness and resilience of the family members remaining behind.
"We are aware of your sacrifices," Palumbo said. "We are aware of the sacrifices of your families. I'm often heard saying, 'Our mission at USARAK is to get the troops ready to deploy and their families ready to stay,' Well, 4-25 is trained and ready to go and their families - thanks to the support of the outside (community of Alaska) - is ready to endure and persevere."
As civilian leaders stepped up to speak, each commented on the professionalism and selflessness of 4-25th Soldiers.
"The members of the 4-25th have played a significant role in our national defense," Begich said.
"While you are gone we know that is our job to stand up for you and your families just as you have stood up for us. I commit to you today, that I will always make the needed decisions to ensure your units have the operational security they need to complete their missions and to ensure the welfare of your families."
Murkowski described the deploying members of the unit as members of the Alaskan family and expressed her wishes to be there on a personal level.
"We could have either been in (Washington) D.C. talking about you today, or we could have been here with you in person. Either way, Alaskan values dictate that you drop everything when members of your family need you," Murkowski said. "The Alaska community is there for you. You are a cut above the rest, consummate professionals and truly modern day embodiment of the ancient warriors of Sparta. And to your family members back home, if you are ever at a loss of what to do and you just feel overwhelmed, call me. Call Lisa, we are here for you."
Commander of the 4-25th, Col. Morris Goins, addressed the formation and audience.
He welcomed them, thanked them for their support and spoke about the training and dedication of the men and women under his command.
After some words to the families praising them for their support and sacrifices during the past year of preparation for deployment Goins turned to face his unit and asked them a simple yet highly symbolic question.
"Spartans, what is your profession?" Goins asked.
Just as in the movie from which the question was quoted ("300," a 2007 fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae), the paratroopers' thunderous response left no room for doubt.