DOD may halt deployment of two brigades to Iraq
Some or all of the Germany-based 1st Armored Division soldiers currently in Kuwait may be coming home after only a few months under a new plan to draw down U.S. forces in Iraq.
No official drawdown of troops has been announced, but an Army official at the Pentagon said the Baumholder-based 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division is likely to come home after Iraq’s Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.
The departure of the troops is not tied directly to the outcome of the elections, and is not a certainty, the said Army official, who asked not to be identified. The final decision depends on the commanders’ decisions on the ground, “[but] it’s the plan right now,” with officials confident elections will go well, he said.
Whether the changes affect the 1st Brigade Combat Team, based in Friedberg, is unclear, though sources tell Stars and Stripes that some units are scheduled to deploy to Iraq in January. Division officials stated in a new release that there is no change in the 1st AD’s and the 2nd BCT’s current orders.
In addition to the 2nd BCT possibly returning to Baumholder, the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Riley, Kan., will likely not deploy to Iraq in summer 2006, the Army source said on Thursday. However, about 2,000 personnel above company level are expected to go to Iraq as part of the transitional team for Iraqi security forces, the source said.
Instead of 1st ID troops deploying as a brigade combat team from Fort Riley, portions of the brigade would be divided into platoon-sized teams that would work separately to train Iraqi forces, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
Pentagon officials have said they plan to reduce troop levels — now at about 160,000 for the run-up to elections — as the Iraqi army and police become more capable of battling the 30-month-old insurgency.
On Thursday, both AP and The New York Times reported the possibility of changes in deployment schedules after members of Congress began pressuring the Bush administration to begin a withdrawal. The 2nd BCT could remain in Kuwait as a quick-reaction force, or all or part of the brigade could be sent home, depending on whether the situation in Iraq stabilizes after the elections, according to the Times story.
AP reported that two-thirds of the 2nd BCT would return, with the rest staying in Kuwait, prepared to respond to emergencies in Iraq.
Most of the 2nd BCT deployed to Kuwait after a Nov. 10 departure ceremony in Baumholder. But the 2nd BCT’s final mission has been cloaked in secrecy. Earlier this year, Baumholder-based troops were told the BCT would be attached to the 101st Airborne Task Force in Iraq, though some division artillery units were told they wouldn’t be deploying.
A number of 2nd BCT spouses told Stars and Stripes they received verbal notification — though nothing official in writing — from Family Readiness Groups that the 2nd Brigade would be staying in Kuwait rather than moving into Iraq.
The Washington Post reported last month that the U.S. would keep a reserve force in Kuwait, the first time that’s happened since the war started in March 2003.
The possibility of the brigade coming home is “good news,” said Capt. Roderick Pitman, with the 40th Engineer (Combat) Battalion. He is scheduled to do a follow-on deployment “and if they come home, it means I may not have to go,” Pittman said. He and others caught up in stop-movement and stop-loss orders may be allowed to complete scheduled permanent changes of station, he added.
Assuming her husband is coming home, “it’s great news, especially here at Christmas time,” said a 2nd BCT spouse who asked not to be identified.
Preparing for his second deployment since 2003, her husband and his comrades put in long hours, training, she said. “Knowing my husband, he’s going to be disappointed, because he wanted to be part of this,” the spouse said.
“This is their life. This is their job.”