9400 soldiers' Iraq tours extended seven to 10 days
ARLINGTON, Va. — About 9,400 active Army troops, most from the 3rd Infantry Division, will have their yearlong stay in Iraq extended by seven to 10 days in January, Pentagon officials said Friday.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed extension orders Thursday night to keep about 4,000 troops from the Fort Stewart, Ga.-based division’s 1st Brigade and 5,000 troops from the division’s 3rd Brigade in Iraq longer than their planned 12-month “boots on the ground” deployment, according to Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita.
About 400 members of the headquarters element of the 18th Airborne Corps, which took over as the Multinational Corps-Iraq headquarters in February, also will be held over, another Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, told Stripes on Friday.
The 1st Brigade was scheduled to leave Jan. 10, but will stay until Jan. 20, Whitman said.
The 3rd Brigade, due to leave Jan. 19, will stay until Jan. 26, he said.
And the 18th Airborne personnel will leave Feb. 2, instead of Jan. 23, Whitman said.
The extension of the 9,400 troops is not intended to boost the number of U.S. forces in Iraq beyond the 17-division complement of 138,000 troops now there.
Nor is it, Di Rita said, to help with security for the referendum and parliamentary elections in December.
Rather, U.S. military commanders want to ensure better overlap in the next major rotation of U.S. forces, which is under way but will accelerate in November and December.
The extension “is for the purposes of allowing the turnover to be done with a little bit greater separation from the elections” Di Rita said.
An additional 1,500 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division were ordered to Iraq on Aug. 24 to help with Iraq’s October referendum on the constitution and the December elections.
The deployment for the 82nd Airborne will be approximately 120 days, defense officials said when the activation was first announced.