Army announces deployment cycles; most Iraq rotations will be yearlong
ARLINGTON, Va. — Army officials on Wednesday announced plans to cover the next two years of deployments to Iraq, detailing what units are coming out when and who is going in to replace them.
In the short term in Iraq, the Army leadership wants to make one-for-one replacements to keep U.S. and coalition troop strength around 156,400 through March 2004, said Gen. John Keane, acting chief of staff of the Army.
“For our soldiers, the global war on terrorism is personal, it’s often brutal, extremely terrorizing, it’s very demanding, and death is always a silent companion,” Keane said. “Yet day in and day out, they perform this missions with extraordinary dedication and competence.”
For the first time since the Vietnam War, troops will be going for yearlong deployments. The last time an Army element came close to that was in 1995, when the 1st Armored Division deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina for 11 months.
The Army’s leadership intends to keep rotations to Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and the Sinai at six months in duration, Keane said.
And the Army’s stress level is of concern, he said. “Certainly our force is stressed,” Keane said, but not to the breaking point.
Army leadership still is considering a call by some lawmakers for a bigger Army, but no decisions have been made. But the Army is short on infantrymen, military police, civil engineers and combing support service staff, and leadership is working to rectify the shortages.
Army officials scurried to provide an accurate listing of the Iraq troop rotations, and were making changes right up until the moment Keane stepped behind the lectern for the press briefing.
The following lists the upcoming troop and date Iraq rotations:
• The two remaining brigades of the 3rd Infantry Division will return home in September and be replaced by soldiers from the 2nd Brigade and headquarter elements of the 82nd Airborne Division.
• The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force will be replaced by a Polish division in the September-October time frame, though redeployments might extend until December.
• The 4th Infantry Division will be replaced in March or April by the 1st Infantry Division with an attached special brigade from the National Guard.
• The 1st Armored Division will be replaced between February and April with a bridge from the 1st Cavalry Division, also with an attached Guard special brigade.
• The 2nd Light Armored Cavalry Regiment will be replaced with a brigade from the 1st Cavalry Division in March or April.
• The 101st Airborne Division will return in February and March, after a year in the region, to be replaced with coalition divisions yet to be named.
• The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment will be replaced in March or April by the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, the Stryker’s first deployment. The 3rd ACR and Stryker Brigade will have an overlap of duties.
Deployment of the Stryker Brigade out of Fort Lewis, Wash., shows Pentagon leadership the Army’s efforts to become a lighter and more agile force, Keane said.
He also said the Army needs to do a better job of tapping existing services provided within the active components — such as engineers from within the Navy and Air Force, as an example — instead of going to already stressed Guard and Reserve units.
And the Army is working on a plan to provide “quality of life” incentives for Iraq-deployed troops, but did not provide any specifics.
Though Gen. John Abizaid, commander of forces both in Iraq and Afghanistan, had said Marines might be tapped to perform yearlong peacekeeping missions — jobs traditionally done by the Army — those plans don’t appear in the short-term outline.
“We expect Marine forces will be replaced by coalition forces and all will redeploy by December,” said a Marine official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It’ll be phased out over the coming months until all Marines are out by December. But nothing is set in stone.”
Some Dutch units now are in southern Iraq “doing turnovers with Marine forces to some degree,” the Marine official said.
If coalition forces are not available, the military leadership will look to tapping Marine forces for such a mission, Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, vice director for Operations on the Joint Chief of Staff, said during Wednesday’s press briefing.
But Keane’s plan is more than just the short term; it’s an outline that “provides predictability we owe to the soldier,” he said.