More troops ordered to Persian Gulf
HEIDELBERG, Germany — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered yet another wave of deployments into the Persian Gulf region over the weekend, increasing the number of troops bound for the Middle East by 27,000.
The order is the latest in a staccato blast of marching orders signed by Rumsfeld in recent days. On Friday, he approved orders for 35,000 troops following previous sets of orders totaling 30,000.
In addition to the approximately 60,000 troops already in the Middle East, the latest mobilizations will bring the total number of U.S. forces in the region to around 152,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
Based on the latest orders signed by Rumsfeld, U.S. European Command officials say they are determining what portion of forces in Europe will get the nod to move out.
“We are in the middle of that process now,” said Cmdr. James Graybeal, a EUCOM spokesman.
Graybeal clarified comments by EUCOM officials in Sunday’s Stars and Stripes, saying “all of EUCOM is not on alert.”
Instead, he said, Rumsfeld’s orders outline requirements that top regional commanders must now fill. As leaders match those requirements to specific units, orders to actually begin deploying will be passed out, he said.
It’s no secret, however, that many units are in the midst of earnest preparations.
The Army’s V Corps, headquartered in Heidelberg, for example, is slated to begin a series of war planning exercises this month with most of its major combat formations, as well as two divisions based in the United States.
Gen. B.B. Bell, commander of all U.S. Army forces in Europe said the Victory Scrimmage exercises will “look at a wide range of possibilities.”
Bell said at this point it is impossible to say how many soldiers might eventually deploy to the Middle East from Europe.
“There’s still several force packages under consideration,” he told Stars and Stripes.
The V Corps headquarters deployed to Kuwait last month for a series of top-level war games. While most of the staff returned to Germany just before the holiday, the corps command post has been left in a “hot status” manned by a cadre of soldiers.
While details for upcoming deployments are still being worked out, a senior military official said privately that significant combat forces in Europe are expected to begin receiving orders within the next week or so.
While a slew of units has already gotten the nod — most recently a battalion of Army engineers and helicopter units, and a contingent of Air Force F-16CJs radar jammers — most of the major combat units have remained on standby.