The 101st Airborne Division unfurled its colors at Bagram Airfield, Sunday, marking the start of the unit’s fourth Afghanistan deployment in the last decade.

During past deployments to the country, the 101st was focused on the eastern provinces. Now, though, the division will oversee NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist Afghan government operations across the nation, according to an Army press release.

The division’s commander, Maj. Gen. Andrew Poppas, and senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Sims, spoke at the ceremony, as they took the reins from their counterparts in the 3rd Infantry Division.

During the ceremony, Poppas said it was encouraging to see the change and progress in Afghanistan since the unit was in charge of Regional Command-East in 2008.

"Not only are the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces fully responsible for Afghanistan's security nationwide, but routinely conducting independent and combined arms operations,” Poppas said. “We have gone from an active combat role or partnered operations to merely training, advising and assisting these capable Afghan combat formations — a monumental and hard-fought achievement."

Poppas will be serving as both the Resolute Support deputy chief of staff for operations and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan deputy commanding general for operations.

The 3rd Infantry Division helped craft the new deputy chief role that Poppas will assume, which reflects how the U.S. forces in the country have transitioned “from a posture of leaving Afghanistan to a strategy focused on winning,” Gen. John Nicholson, Resolute Support and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan commander, said at the ceremony.

In this new role, Poppas helps synchronize all operations in Afghanistan for both support functions and combat-enabling functions with Afghan security forces at the tactical level, according to the release.

"I couldn't think of two better outfits to have here in Afghanistan at the same time," Nicholson said about the 3rd Infantry and 101st Airborne Divisions. "I feel really fortunate that we've been blessed with these two fine divisions to serve here."

Prior to deploying to Afghanistan, the 101st did a train-up at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, which included three warfighter exercises.

The training echoed the ability of his staff to carry out their new mission and enable the Afghan forces, Poppas said.

"The hard-won gains in Afghanistan, by the Afghans and NATO, remain fragile, but are worth defending," said Poppas. "I look forward to working alongside each to bring peace and stability to this nation.”

Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.

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