European edition, Saturday, May 5, 2007

WIESBADEN, Germany — Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling has been here before.

And before that.

In fact, there’s a lot of places Hertling has been. Iraq, for example, during his last two hitches with the 1st Armored Division.

But a lot has changed since he joined the division’s 1st Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment in the late 1980s. Since then, the Berlin Wall came down, the Cold War ended and the 1st Squadron — a recent casualty of transformation — inactivated.

His days of patrolling the German border are long gone, as are the days when the division was the defining unit in the Army.

Hertling will have to grapple with the latter reality as he leads the 1st Armored Division headquarters into Iraq without a single 1st AD combat unit under his command (unless, of course, you count 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, which the division adopted when the 1st ID headquarters left Germany last year. The 1st AD headquarters may inhabit Iraq briefly with the brigade).

Hertling won’t get a chance to train side by side with the units he’ll command in Iraq, which includes brigades from the 82nd Airborne Division, 1st Cavalry Division and 25th Infantry, among others.

“But it’s not like it’s the first time we’ve done it,” Hertling said. “You know when 1st Armored Division deployed last time — when I had the honor of being the [assistant division commander-support] — Task Force Iron had 39,000 soldiers in Baghdad. Only 12,000 of them were from the division.”

It’s going to be a challenge, he said, but it’ll likely be an easier task this time.

“The difference is this time we have a little bit of time to prepare with those guys,” he said. When the division arrived in Baghdad in 2003, they didn’t even know who they’d be fighting along with. “At least this time we have a pretty good feel for who we’ll be connected with and we’ll be able to spend a little bit of time training up with them and getting to know personalities,” he said.

Because the units 1st AD will command won’t arrive at the same time as the headquarters, they’ll train together remotely using simulations, digital links and other high-tech work-arounds. It helps that the Army training and methodology are the same across the Army, he said.

“The most important thing we’ve got to do when we build a team like this in combat is get to know each other,” he said.

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