173rd Airborne waits for orders to deploy
January 11, 2007
BAMBERG, Germany — It’s been nearly two months since Pentagon officials announced that the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team would be one of several units headed to Iraq sometime in 2007.
Since then, not another word has been said as to when or where. And for the half of the brigade living and working on Warner Barracks in Bamberg, it shows.
From lone soldiers handling daily business to the dozens getting battalion photos taken at 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment headquarters, everyone who was asked about the deployment — and the chance it could be moved up — declined comment, other then mentioning that official orders have not yet been received.
“Usually, when we get the official word, the battalion commander will give it to us in formation,” said one first sergeant who declined further comment.
“We’re anticipating deployment orders because of the release from the Pentagon in the last few months concerning possible deployment in the summer,” said Staff Sgt. Jacob Caldwell, noncommissioned officer-in- charge of the unit’s public affairs office at 173rd headquarters in Vicenza, Italy.
But even with President Bush expected to announce a “surge” of troops to Iraq, including moving up scheduled deployment dates, it’s been business as usual for the 173rd.
In order to stay combat-ready, the brigade leaves for a weeks- long rotation at the Joint Multinational Training Command in Grafenwöhr on Tuesday, followed by a rotation at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels — which they’d do regardless of impending deployment, Caldwell said.
“We’re going to get the newest [tactics, techniques and procedures]. We’re still getting new personnel every day; we’re still getting new equipment every day; and we’re going there to get deployment-certified,” Caldwell added.
For the six battalions in Bamberg, Vicenza and Schweinfurt, it’s still a waiting game.
“We don’t have any orders at this time to deploy,” said Maj. Nicholas Sternberg, brigade public affairs officer.
He said the brigade would reach the one-year mark of being back home in the summer. Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey mentioned a June time frame during his speech to troops on Caserma Ederle in November. Harvey also said the average time for units to recover at their home bases was roughly 14 months, short of the Army’s goal of two years back at home station.
The last large group of troops from the brigade returned from Afghanistan in late March. Members of the brigade and the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) had spent about a year in country making up a chunk of Combined Joint Task Force-76.
Soldiers had received word that they would deploy to Afghanistan shortly after returning from a yearlong stint in Iraq in the spring of 2004. About 1,000 paratroopers jumped into northern Iraq to begin the unit’s deployment in March 2003.
Since returning from Afghanistan, a few units have relocated to bases in Germany and others have stood up there as the brigade has grown from three battalions to six.
“We’ll be ready to go when called,” Sternberg said.