- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The last of the 1,200 Louisiana-based soldiers who’ve been in Afghanistan since last summer are returning home to Fort Polk in the coming days.

The 4th Brigade Combat Team soldiers have been returning to the U.S. Army post in west-central Louisiana in groups during recent weeks, said Kimberly Reischling, a Fort Polk spokeswoman. The last of them should be home by the weekend, she said Thursday.

Nola.com/The Times-Picayune reports (https://bit.ly/1gd0ibQ) the 4th Brigade, known as the “Patriot Brigade,” spent almost nine months advising and helping Afghan soldiers and police in seven provinces north of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city.

It was the brigade’s third Afghanistan deployment since 2007. Its second deployment lasted a year and ended in 2011, after at least 21 of its soldiers were killed, most to roadside bombs. At least one 4th Brigade soldier died during this recent deployment, from a non-combat cause, the Army has said.

Most U.S. forces are expected to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the year, more than 12 years after the United States invaded to oust the Taliban regime that sheltered al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

The 4th Brigade, which has about 3,500 soldiers overall, was activated at Fort Polk in January 2005, as one of the major units under the New York-based 10th Mountain Division. The Army last year announced the 4th Brigade would be retained, as that armed service reduces the number of brigade combat teams from 45 to 33.

Under its $120.5 billion 2015 budget request announced Monday, the Army plans to reduce the number of active duty soldiers from 510,000 this year to 490,000 next year.


Information from: The Times-Picayune, https://www.nola.com

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