GIEBELSTADT, Germany — It seems as if the paint on the “Welcome home” posters from last year’s Iraq deployment had barely dried when the news came last week to thousands of Europe-based soldiers and their families.

Get ready for another year in the desert.

“I figured, coming into the Army, that we’d be deployed a lot,” said Spc. Brian Ferry, 20, of the 3rd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, a UH-60 Black Hawk unit from Giebelstadt, Germany. “I’m already looking forward to getting it over with.”

In July, the Pentagon announced the major divisions and brigades that would take over early next year for the big units now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That rotation list painted a broad-brush picture of what Operation Iraqi Freedom 3 and Operation Enduring Freedom 6 would look like. Last week, the theater commands sketched in the finer details, sending “warning orders” for a probable yearlong deployment to about 8,400 U.S. Army Europe troops in battalion, company and detachment-sized groups that will out the divisions and brigades.

About 5,500 of those will support the Southern European Task Force’s 173rd Airborne Brigade from Vicenza, Italy, in Afghanistan. SETAF’s air support will come from veteran V Corps units that served in Kuwait and Iraq between October 2002 and March 2004: Apache Longbows from the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment in Illesheim, Germany; and from Giebelstadt, the 3-158 Aviation Black Hawks, two companies of CH-47 Chinooks, and the 12th Aviation Brigade’s headquarters company.

About 2,900 more V Corps troops will head to Iraq. The largest units are the 17th Signal Battalion from Kitzingen and the 94th Engineer Battalion from Vilseck.

For new soldiers, or for those left in Germany during the first two OIF deployments, it’s a chance to jump in on the adventure.

“I don’t mind going at all,” said Pfc. Christopher Verost, 21, of the 3-158 Aviation, who enlisted last year so he could fight in the war on terror. “That’s one of the reasons I joined the Army.”

Some single soldiers also are looking forward to the chance to pile up a year’s worth of deployment cash. They earn combat pay on top of tax-free salaries, and they won’t be spending their paychecks on dates, travel, stereos and beer while they’re in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“We’re all single. It’s different for us,” said Pfc. Adam Kortlever, 23, of the 3-158 Aviation, as he ate a chow-hall lunch with Verost and another buddy. “It’s a great opportunity for us to save up money.”

It’s hard to find anyone in the affected units who was blindsided by the deployment news. On every base in Europe, the rumor mill has churned for months.

“We pretty much knew we were going to do something,” said Spc. Juan Haninger, 23, also of the 3-158 Aviation.

“Even if you don’t have official warning orders, you know,” said Noelle Sammons, 32, whose husband is a pilot in the same unit. “If anyone is surprised, then they aren’t paying attention.”

That it was expected, though, doesn’t make the blow any easier for soldiers with families who struggled through one yearlong separation and now face another. The punishing operations tempo has become a fact of Army life since the invasion of Iraq.

“A year is a long time,” Sammons said. “It’ll be hard, but we’ll do it. We’re not going to sit and be miserable.”

“Now we know what a year apart is like,” said her husband, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mark Sammons, 32.

The silver lining to a return trip for some is that the mystery is gone. They know how long they’ll be gone, they know what deployment is like, and they’ll know they’re with buddies they can trust.

“We all know. We’ve been down there with each other. That makes it a lot easier,” Gabel said.

“I can’t say I’m excited,” added Haninger, “but I’m real comfortable with the guys I’m going down with.”

Another plus is that the hot, dirty camps they built from scratch last year in Iraq have now added “luxuries” such as phone and Internet tents, chow halls, showers and air-conditioning. All were rare during the 17th Signal Battalion’s six-month Iraq tour in 2003. They’ll be returning to much better digs.

“We’re looking forward to the improvements,” said 1st Lt. Nicole Rabold, personnel officer and adjutant for the Kitzingen-based unit. “We were down there when we had, seriously, nothing.”

Amenities or no, soldiers know that Army life isn’t meant to be easy. A deep culture of service and sacrifice mutes the griping, even when the duty is hard.

“Our nation is calling for us to go out and do our mission, and that’s what we are going to do,” said Staff Sgt. Lamont Watkins, logistics noncommissioned officer for the Bamberg-based 793rd Military Police Company, which is getting its first wartime call-up.

“I have a [18-month-old] baby, and I’m a little sad about leaving, but everything else is all right,” said Sgt. Luis Sosa, who serves in the same unit. “I’m just trying to get over there, get it over with and come back home safe.”

—Staff writer Rick Emert contributed to this report

Called to fight again

The following U.S. Army Europe units are in receipt of deployment orders for Operation Iraqi Freedom 3:

V CORPS Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 18th Military Police BrigadeHeadquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 793rd Military Police Battalion464th Medical Detachment (Dental)17th Signal Battalion51st Transportation Company236th Medical Company (Air Ambulance)515th Transportation Company41st Transportation Company377th Transportation Company240th Quartermaster Company578th Signal Company619th Movement Control Team64th Medical Detachment (Veterinary)94th Engineer Battalion

21ST THEATER SUPPORT COMMAND 95th Military Police Battalion70th Transportation Company

—Source: U.S. Army Europe

No guarantees for soldiers without orders

GIEBELSTADT, Germany — While thousands of V Corps soldiers brought home warning orders for Iraq or Afghanistan last week, just as many who feared getting them did not.

But no one is heaving any big sigh of relief.

“Because of the way it happened the first time, I don’t have any expectations,” said Sgt. 1st Class Erica Holloway, 33, of the 3rd Battalion, 58th Aviation Regiment’s headquarters company, which hasn’t received orders. “If we go, we go, and if we don’t, we don’t.”

U.S. Army Europe commanders have warned that the list of units receiving orders is complete for now, but by no means final. There could be additions, or substitutions.

Spc. James Griffin, 23, serves in Company B, 7th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, based in Giebelstadt. He’s not sure if he’ll be following up last year’s Iraq tour with one in Afghanistan, like hundreds of other soldiers from his base. A USAREUR news release Tuesday said his company was deploying, but it was deleted from a revised notice the next day.

“I’ll be disappointed if my unit [isn’t] going,” Griffin said. “I went to Iraq last time, but now I want to see something different. That’s why I joined the Army.”

Staff Sgt. Jose Estrada, 34, spent a year in Iraq with the 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, a UH-60 Black Hawk unit. Its sister unit at Giebelstadt, the 3rd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment — which returned from Iraq two months after his battalion — got deployment orders, but his did not.

For Estrada, that’s good news. He’s planning to leave the Army on Nov. 1 after 13 years, partly because of the rigors of his last deployment.

“Since we were the first to come back, we expected to be the first to go,” he said. “But I’m pretty sure 5th Battalion will get their number, too.”

At Illesheim, the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment got orders for Operation Enduring Freedom. The 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment right next door did not. Both served in Iraq during the war.

“From all the talk I really don’t think that 6/6 (Cavalry) is ‘safe,’ so to speak,” said Jeanne Kelly, wife of a Troop D sergeant. “I am sure we will go somewhere — eventually.”

— Steve Liewer

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