JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Wash. -- Despite an ordered drawdown in Afghanistan, nearly 1,800 Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) troops are preparing to deploy there this week.
Members of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) will spend nine months to a year providing security, medical aid and transport through the air.
“We’re still in the fight, our job is to get out there and do what we need to do,” said Staff Sgt. Sam Montoya, who’s deploying for the third time.
After President Obama’s message to the Pentagon to gradually withdraw American troops, almost 34,000 are currently stationed in Afghanistan.
Nearly 10,000 JBLM troops were deployed to Afghanistan last year. This year, that number has dropped dramatically to nearly 3,000 troops. Most are now transitioning from combat to support roles.
“There are still a lot of soldiers on the ground that needs the services we bring,” said Col. Paul Mele, Brigade Commander.
According to Col. Mele, a common misconception by the public is that the war in Afghanistan is over.
“I get asked aren’t we done? Why are we still going? Our nation still has soldiers upwards of tens of thousands and we’re continuing to drawdown, but until the moment there’s no soldiers left on the ground, they’ll need the critical aviation support we offer,” he said.
In more than 12 years, the war in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of nearly 2,300 U.S. troops and cost more than $90 billion in reconstruction aid.
“I’m proud to have a soldier fighting in Afghanistan,” said Carey Montoya, Sam’s wife.
“They’re hopefully the last battalion over there,” she said.
The 16th CAB will begin arriving in Afghanistan next week.