By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
March 18, 2008 - The 1st Infantry Division's commanding general yesterday welcomed home 37 U.S. servicemembers who served overseas for the past year as advisors with Afghan or Iraqi forces. "The first thing that I will do is tell all the troops and their families that they have my personal thanks and my professional admiration for the service that they provide to our nation, and in this case for the last year, also to the nations of Afghanistan or Iraq," Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Durbin said during the ceremony.
Durbin, who has commanded the division and Fort Riley for the past eight months, noted that before they had set off on their 12-month overseas deployments, the troops completed a 60-day advisor preparation course on the installation.
The course curriculum "is a standardization of the training for all U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Naval personnel who are assigned to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and for those that are going to Iraq to do a similar task in building the indigenous capacity for the security forces of Iraq," Durbin explained.
Since 2006, soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, based on Fort Riley, have trained 5,767 soldiers, 840 sailors and 1,172 airmen to serve with transition training teams in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to combat team officials.
Each training team is composed of between 10 to 15 U.S. servicemembers who are embedded with Iraqi or Afghan security forces. The U.S. advisors use their mentoring and coaching skills to improve the performance and capabilities of their Afghan and Iraqi counterparts.
"The transition team training mission that is conducted here produces professional, well-trained teams of advisors," Durbin said.
"I'm very proud of the quality of training that is conducted here," Durbin continued, noting that Afghanistan "has a special place in my heart." Durbin led the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan before his recent posting to Fort Riley.
Durbin reiterated his praise for servicemembers' efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and acknowledged the sacrifices that military families make during the absence of loved ones.
"I want them to understand how much I personally admire and appreciate the courage that they've shown," Durbin said.
Army spouse Alisha King attended the redeployment ceremony holding a white rose and a red rose, which she said symbolize unity, for her husband James, a captain who has returned from a year-long advisor tour in Iraq.
"This is a welcome-home ceremony!" King laughed as she exhibited a mega-watt smile. "I think it is an amazing thing what he is doing ... you will never meet prouder spouses than those married into the military. I'm very proud of him."
At the end of the redeployment ceremony, King and his wife met near the center of the gym and embraced.
"It is awesome; it's the best feeling," the captain said as he held his wife.