1st Armored Division's Iraq timeline
• March 4, 2003 — The 1st Armored Division officially is notified that it will be deploying to Iraq to relieve the Georgia-based 3rd Infantry Division.
• March 18, 2003 — Baumholder-based Company C, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Brigade is the first 1st AD unit to leave, deploying on a mission attached to V Corps.
• April 2003 — In a little-reported incident, thousands of tons of 1st AD equipment is stuck in Antwerp, Belgium, after Belgian officials impound the equipment, bound for Iraq. Belgium, France and Germany — all NATO members — led the European diplomatic condemnation of the Iraq war. German officials told Stars and Stripes that they persuaded the Belgian government to release the supplies after developing a plan to reroute shipments through ports in Hamburg, Germany, or Rotterdam, Netherlands. But the delay caused the Army to postpone deployment ceremonies around the 1st AD.
• April 18, 2003 — Pfc. Joseph Mayek, 20, of Rock Springs, Wyo., apparently is the first Germany- based soldier to die in Iraq since the war began March 20. The Baumholder-based soldier died when a Bradley fighting vehicle experienced a power surge, causing a 25 mm cannon to fire during maintenance. Mayek was assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment at Baumholder.
• July 17, 2003 — Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey takes command of the 1st AD from Maj. Gen. Fred Robinson at Saddam Hussein’s former palace at Camp Victory, the V Corps headquarters on the southeast side of Baghdad International Airport. Robinson goes to the Pentagon to work in Army operations.
• Summer 2003 — The 1st AD is in command of much of Baghdad including the Baghdad International Airport, where the division is headquartered.
The Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team covers the volatile center of Baghdad. But the Baumholder, Germany-based 2nd Brigade, under Col. Ralph O. Baker, is responsible for two of Baghdad’s 11 districts, an area that includes both sides of the Tigris River and is home to about 700,000 of Baghdad’s estimated 5 million people. The 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment has 400,000 people in its area of responsibility alone.
The populous northern section, Karkh, has 18 distinct neighborhoods over 400 square miles. The more-rural southern Al-Karadah section covers more territory but has fewer residents.
Brigade soldiers operate under a public works mission dubbed SWEAT, for sewers, water, electricity, academics and trash. In the mission, the military provides oversight for finding local contractors, nongovernmental organizations or anybody who can complete projects to improve the average Iraqi’s standard of living. It is funded with money seized from Saddam Hussein.
• February 2004 — 1st Cavalry Division troops begin taking over from 1st AD troops in Baghdad.
• Feb. 2, 2004 — Dempsey cancels the two-week rest and recuperation program for the next two months for the roughly 47,000 soldiers under his command in Baghdad. “We did make a command decision, that we couldn’t do any more environmental leave, R&R, after 31 January,” Dempsey said. “We did that principally because we have a mission to accomplish in transitioning the city of Baghdad over to the unit following us.”
• March and April 2004 — Insurgent attacks increase around Iraq, and Pentagon and Army officials begin discussing holding the 1st AD’s combat teams to reinforce the 1st Cavalry Division, which is supposed to replace the division.
• April 14, 2004 — Change of command. With the security situation deteriorating and a possible tour extension for the 1st AD looming, 1st Cavalry commander Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli takes command of Baghdad from Dempsey during a secret change of command ceremony, possibly at Baghdad International Airport.
• April 16, 2004 — U.S. officials confirm that the division will extend the one-year Iraq rotation for 120 days, and that about 1,600 troops who’ve returned to Germany are ordered to go back to the war zone. Gen. John Abiziad, head of U.S. Central Command, stated the 1st AD troops were needed as part of “two brigades’ worth of combat power” after the insurgency began to build in February and March.
• April 29, 2004 — Eight soldiers from Baumholder-based Company C, 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment die when a car bomb exploded as the soldiers cleared a road of explosives south of Baghdad near the town of Mahmoudiyah. A driver in a station wagon neared the team then “detonated an explosive device,” killing eight soldiers and wounding four. It is the single biggest loss the division suffers during 15 months in Iraq.
• May and June 2004 — As 1st Cavalry Division units replaces the 1st AD in Baghdad, violence builds ahead of the turnover of authority, scheduled June 30.
1st AD units head south to Kut, where they help take control of the city from Shiite militia after U.S. commanders call Iraqi security forces “a great disappointment.” One brigade-size unit from 1st AD will head some 50 miles south to Babil Province to protect supply-line convoys that have been attacked and major highways that have been closed, and to battle “former regime elements.”
Another regiment moves south to Najaf, where coalition troops battle radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army. The 1st AD also protects military convoy routes on the highways south and west of the capital.
• July 14, 2004 — The 1st Armored Division’s colors are returned to its headquarters in Wiesbaden when Dempsey and a small group of soldiers set foot on Wiesbaden Army Airfield for the first time since the division deployed more than a year ago.