HEIDELBERG, Germany — The top ground commanders of what will likely form the Army’s spearhead into Iraq will gather in Germany for face-to-face planning meetings and war plan rehearsals, according to senior Army officials.

“V Corps is planning a command and control exercise within the next 30 days,” said Lt. Col. Joe Richard, a V Corps spokesman.

“It’s part of our ongoing effort to stay ready and ensure that V Corps and its units are fully prepared to undertake any mission it is required to do.”

Although Richard declined to elaborate, several senior military officials told Stars and Stripes that the exercises will bring together many of the top commanders of any ground invasion should the White House give the green light for an attack on Iraq.

Dubbed Victory Scrimmage, the war games will gather the key leaders of the United States-based 101st Airborne Division and 1st Cavalry Division as well as the Germany-based 1st Armored Division and 1st Infantry Division.

It will involve hundreds of staff officers, war planners and support troops, officials said.

“It’s a command and control exercise with pucksters — guys who move the puck around for computer simulations,” said Maj. Hugh Cate, spokesman for the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Ky.

“These guys tell the computer what’s going on; it’s a simulated battlefield with replicated units.”

Cate said that more than 100 personnel would be involved in the exercise, which would last “a week to 10 days.”

All four divisions will fall under Lt. Gen. William Wallace’s V Corps for the exercises, which will be conducted at the Army’s sprawling training center at Grafenwöhr, Germany.

Wallace and his staff just returned from the deserts of Kuwait where — along with the Marine Corps’ 1st Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters — it hashed out top-level planning for an invasion of Iraq with U.S. Central Command.

Now it’s time to work out the details of those plans, officials say.

The exercises are slated to begin in mid-January and will run one to two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is finalizing orders for the first wave of Germany-based forces into the Middle East.

Several thousand soldiers — mostly from V Corps’ support brigades — engineers, military intelligence and communications units among them — are expected to receive their official deployment orders any day now.

The mobilization is part of a much larger mustering of forces in the Middle East.

According to U.S. Central Command officials, there are currently about 60,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines already in the region.

Those numbers are expected to balloon to as many 250,000 if an invasion is ordered.

Patrick Dickson contributed to this story from Washington.

The commanders

Victory Scrimmage, the upcoming war games in Germany, will bring together some of the top units and commanders of a potential invasion of Iraq. Among them:

V Corps — Heidelberg, Germany; commander: Lt. Gen. William Wallace

1st Infantry Division — Würzburg, Germany; commander: Maj. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez

1st Armored Division — Wiesbaden, Germany; commander: Maj. Gen. John Batiste

1st Cavalry Division — Fort Hood, Texas; commander: Maj. Gen. Joe Peterson

101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) — Fort Campbell, Ky.; commander: Maj. Gen. Dave Petraeus

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