Extra training may mean more time between combat tours for Stryker soldiers
Stars and Stripes August 4, 2009
VILSECK, Germany — Soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment are packing up their gear this week for a three-month rotation to Bulgaria and Romania.
While it’s not exactly sitting on the sofa at home, all indications are that the Strykers will get almost two years between combat deployments at a time when Army leaders are looking for ways to increase that “dwell time.”
Typically, Army units have been getting 12 months between downrange assignments. Late last month during a town hall meeting at Fort Drum, N.Y., Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a group of 10th Mountain Division soldiers that planners are looking to increase dwell times to more than a year, according to The Washington Post. But, he said he didn’t expect that to happen until next spring, when the U.S. plans to bring additional brigade combat teams from Iraq.
For now, the 2nd Cav has no deployment orders to a combat zone, although there is speculation among soldiers that the Strykers’ next combat tour could be to Afghanistan.
Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division’s 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Lewis, Wash., deployed to Afghanistan in June, the first Strykers to deploy there. If the 2nd Cav Strykers were to replace them, it wouldn’t be until next summer, meaning the Germany-based troops would get about 20 months between combat deployments.
Hundreds of Romanian and Bulgarian troops are currently serving in Afghanistan, and Romanian troops are fighting alongside U.S. soldiers from the Hohenfels, Germany-based 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment in southern Afghanistan’s Zabul province. However, the upcoming training won’t include any Afghanistan-based scenarios or role-playing, according to 2nd Lt. Phillip Hicks, 22, from Olmsted Falls, Ohio, who supervised the loading of equipment at Vilseck on Monday.
Hicks said the Task Force East training will focus on core cavalry skills and building relationships with the Romanians and Bulgarians. The brigade’s 4th Squadron has shipped 31 Strykers and about 90 other vehicles to Romania, while the unit’s 2nd Squadron will send a similar amount of equipment to Bulgaria later in the week.
A couple of 2nd Cav soldiers said they are glad they’re not headed back to war so quickly.
Sgt. Ron Rivera, 22, of Lakeland, Fla., who deployed to Iraq with the regiment from 2007 to 2008, said that since he got home, he’s toured Europe, got married and he and his wife are expecting a child.
Rivera said he feels like the regiment is getting a good break from the war.
“I have friends back in the States and eight months later they were already back in theater,” he said.
Sgt. Barry Mitchell, 26, of Detroit, who also served with 2nd Cav in Iraq, said going to eastern Europe is not the same as deploying to combat, although it still means time away from family.
Mitchell, who will leave behind his wife and son, said his family is behind him “110 percent.”
“My wife actually helps me get through deployments,” he added.
Mitchell said he’s looking forward to learning military tactics from soldiers from a different country, adding that he thinks there’s a good chance he could work with Romanian or Bulgarian soldiers in Afghanistan.