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HEIDELBERG, Germany — An upcoming exercise designed to rehearse war plans for an invasion of Iraq has been expanded to include five of the Army’s 10 divisions.

However, the Germany-based 1st Infantry Division has been taken off the roster of top commands participating in the war games.

Code named Victory Scrimmage, the strategy rehearsals are being led by Lt. Gen. William Wallace’s V Corps, based in Heidelberg, and are designed to fine-tune invasion options into Iraq.

“Victory Scrimmage is a command and control exercise,” said V Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Richard, explaining that it would not involve mass formations of troops, but rather concentrate on top leaders and their staffs.

Richard said much of the war games will focus on long-distance “deep strike operations.” “That’s a critical capability of this corps,” he said.

Victory Scrimmage is to begin Jan. 28, the day after chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix delivers an update on Iraqi disarmament efforts to the U.N. Security Council. The exercise, in which more than 2,000 troops will take part, will be held at the Grafenwöhr training area and will last about a week.

While the 1st ID has been cut from the exercises, officials say the division should not be written off as a possible player in any conflict with Iraq.

“They should not be marginalized just because they’re not involved in the exercise,” cautioned one senior Army officer privately. “This does not mean they will not play a role in whatever ends up happening. There are going to be a lot of things that need to be done.”

The five divisions participating are:

3rd Infantry Division. While headquartered at Fort Stewart, Ga., the division has had a brigade in Kuwait for several months now. The rest of the division is now on its way.4th Infantry Division. Based at Fort Hood, Texas, the division is equipped with some of the Army’s most advanced digital communications gear and has just received deployment orders to the Middle East.1st Armored Division. Headquartered in Wiesbaden, Germany, this division — along with its sister unit the 1st ID — is considered a likely candidate for the northern front through Turkey.101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Based at Fort Campbell, Ky., this division specializes in helicopter operations and was a key player during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.1st Cavalry Division. Based at Fort Hood, Texas, the 1st Cavalry has shared the regular rotation of forces into Kuwait since the Gulf War.“They are gathering the team. This is the final preparation and rehearsal for war,” said David L. Grange, a retired Army officer who has led the 1st ID, the Ranger Regiment and Delta Force, among other units, during his career.

Grange said such pre-combat exercises are not only critical in fine-tuning war plans, but also for building tight teams.

“Everyone has got to know each other,” said Grange. “You don’t want to be talking to someone for the first time in combat.”

Just as individual tank and infantry crews have to know how to work together, so do the generals, he said.

With 1st ID among the first units in nearly every major conflict since World War I, Grange said he would be surprised if the division was not deployed.

The division’s participation in the exercise, however, has been problematic from the start.

“They’re all over the map right now,” said a senior Army official familiar with the decision to pull the division from the exercise. “It’s just bad timing for them.”

One of the division’s two ground maneuver brigades just returned from peacekeeping duties in Kosovo in November. Its second brigade is there now.

In the past, active-duty division commanders rotating formations through Balkans peacekeeping tours have reduced their units to bottom-of-the-barrel “C-4” combat readiness ratings.

The commanders of those units have said that it would take about six months of training before they would be combat ready again.

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