BAUMHOLDER, Germany — It’s back to Iraq for America’s last armored division.
The Wiesbaden-based 1st Armored Division received its “deployment warning orders” last week, according to soldiers at Baumholder, home to the division’s 2nd Brigade and its Division Artillery.
Several sources told Stars and Stripes that a call-up could be imminent. The division could deploy sometime between Nov. 1, 2005, and mid-January, 2006. In addition, a stop-loss order will go into effect Aug. 1 for the division, according to sources.
Warning orders are informal notifications alerting personnel they could be deployed.
“Units were notified; soldiers were notified in order to let families know” that the 1st AD might deploy to Iraq, said a 1st AD official who asked not to be identified.
Division officials expect formal deployment orders to come this week from the Department of Defense, said U.S. Army officials in Germany. It is possible, though unlikely, units could receive warning orders, but never deploy.
The orders could affect as many as 10,000 soldiers at 11 1st AD bases across central Germany.
Most expected the warning order.
“It’s not a big surprise,” said 1st Sgt. Craig Copridge, with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment at Baumholder. The deployment to Iraq, if it happens, will be the third for Copridge, who went in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 as a sergeant and to Operation Iraqi Freedom in June 2003.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Copridge said. “I just became the first sergeant, and taking the company into combat is always interesting.”
Not everyone shares his enthusiasm.
“Four-two-seven took [the news] hard,” said the wife of a 4th Battalion, 27th Artillery Regiment noncommissioned officer, who asked not to be identified. “It was very emotional at the [Family Readiness Group] meeting,” she said, declining to comment further.
On April 29, 2003, Company C, 4-27, lost eight men in a car bomb attack, the single largest loss the division suffered during its first OIF deployment from April 2003 through July 2004.
Most of the people interviewed by Stars and Stripes rated the Army as good in keeping soldiers and officers informed about major changes before they happen.
“It helped people, helped the families to hear [the warning order] firsthand instead of hearing it on the news,” said Julie Gowel, whose husband, 1st Lt. Dave Gowel, is executive officer for Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade. “The Army is good about telling you what you need to know.”
She added that it was clear the 1st AD was likely to be sent back to Iraq just because there isn’t enough of the Army to go around.
All of the Army’s 10 active-duty divisions have deployed at least once to either Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001, as has nearly every National Guard and Reserve unit. Some units have deployed twice.
Several soldiers told Stars and Stripes they thought it would be easier the second time. The 1st AD would return to Iraq with substantial experience.
“Obviously, we don’t know where we’re going,” Copridge said. “But based on what we learned that 15 months, we’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.”
The division’s area of responsibility covered a huge swath of Baghdad during most of the first deployment, with soldiers and officers dividing their time between three main missions — raids, helping organize local governments and rebuilding efforts. After the division was extended April 16, some units moved to southern Iraq, where they helped route Shiite militias after Iraqi security forces proved ineffectual.
The 1st AD is one of two divisions forward based in Germany. The other, the 1st Infantry Division based at Würzburg, currently has most of its units in Iraq, with the bulk of troops slated to return to Germany after general elections in Iraq, scheduled for Jan. 30.
Coping with long deployments is one of the biggest challenges for military families.
Gowel said she stayed in Baumholder for the first deployment, but she plans to return to her family in Boston for what she expects to be another year apart.
“There’s something to be said for being around people who’re going through what you’re going through,” Gowel said of remaining in Baumholder. “It takes away the pity factor. You can’t go around saying, ‘Oh, woe is me!’ The people around you are all in the same boat.”
Going home won’t be “better or worse, just different,” she said. “I just don’t want to do the same thing, and I felt like I missed a lot of stuff — weddings, family and career opportunities — the first time.”
The old saying among Army families is that it’s easier to leave than to be left behind, Gowel said. If both leave, maybe it’ll be a little easier with neither left behind, she added.