Afghanistan Helicopter Crash Claims 4 Service Members

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, April 20, 2012 - Four International Security Assistance Force service members died in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan yesterday, military officials reported.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, officials said.

In other Afghanistan news, the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division, known as the "Big Red One," took charge of military operations in eastern Afghanistan during a ceremony at Bagram Airfield yesterday, officials reported.

The division, which is home-based at Fort Riley, Kan., assumed command authority of Regional Command-East from the 1st Cavalry Division. The latter unit is returning to Fort Hood, Texas, after a successful year-long tour in Afghanistan.

Operating as Combined Joint Task Force-1, the 1st Infantry Division will command and control operations throughout RC-East, an area roughly the size of Virginia, including 14 provinces, 7.5 million Afghans and 450 kilometers of mountainous terrain along the border with Pakistan.

Army Maj. Gen. William C. Mayville, Jr., commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division and CJTF-1, provided remarks during the ceremony.

"Our mission over the next year is to maintain the momentum of this campaign, relentlessly pursuing insurgent networks, assisting Afghan efforts to assert sovereignty along the border, and accelerating the development" of Afghan national security forces, Mayville said.

Mayville's task force consists of more than 32,000 coalition troops, including five U.S. brigade combat teams as well as troops from nine NATO countries.

The division is appreciative of its partnership with Afghan security forces, Mayville said.

"The Afghan security forces are growing and maturing at a rapid rate," the general said. "Governance, combined with the growing security environment, has limited the Taliban's ability to exert their negative influence.

"Still, we know this is a tough fight," Mayville continued, "but it is a fight we will win, due to our strong partnership" with the Afghan security forces.

Mayville's team will work closely with civilian agencies. U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson, the coordinating director for development and economic affairs in Kabul, attended the ceremony and gave a brief interview about the future of the civilian-military partnership in RC-East.

"The model [civilian-military] integration here is unlike any we've seen before," Olson said. "The military's strides in security, along with its joint work with [Provincial Reconstruction Teams], have given us the ability to focus on governance and development here.

"We've contributed a lot to Afghanistan in the last 10 years," Olson added. "Now the challenge is to make sure the Afghan people have the capacity to continue these successes and projects after 2014."

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