Next rotation of troops will get to Iraq in more heavily armored vehicles
ARLINGTON, Va. — As security continues to deteriorate in Iraq, U.S. military commanders have decided that incoming units should bring more heavy armored vehicles, instead of the Humvees.
The third rotation of troops into Iraq, which will begin this fall, “will come in a heavier formation,” Lt. Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for plans, told reporters Tuesday.
And with Operation Iraqi Freedom 3 troops bringing more of their own armored vehicles, the Army will be able to transfer some of the up-armored Humvees from outgoing troops and give them to combat support units, which aren’t typically equipped with the sturdier vehicles, Cody said.
Pentagon officials have yet to say which active Army units will be tapped for Operation Iraqi Freedom 3, but three National Guard brigades have already been alerted for the deployment: the 256th from Louisiana, the 116th from Idaho, and the 278th from Tennessee.
Each of the National Guard brigades has nine combat maneuver companies.
Cody said the new force mix plan is that of those nine companies, five companies will be “motorized,” or equipped with armored Humvees, and the other four companies will be “mechanized,” or equipped with M1-A1 tanks or Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
The mix was different for Operation Iraqi Freedom 2: the 1st Cavalry Division, the 1st Infantry Division, and three National Guard brigades — the 39th from Arkansas, the 30th from North Carolina, and the 81st from Washington — came into Iraq with one-third of their combat forces mechanized, and the other two-thirds motorized, Cody said.
That meant that for each mechanized infantry battalion, one company deployed with Bradleys or tanks; and the other two companies deployed with 12 to 16 up-armored Humvees, Cody said.
The exception was the 2nd Infantry Division’s Stryker Brigade, which deployed with all of its 300 Stryker armored wheeled combat vehicles, he said.
U.S. Central Command leaders settled on Operation Iraqi Freedom 2 force mix earlier this year, because they thought U.S. troops would spend the summer and fall either patrolling Iraq in tandem with Iraq security forces or seeking out insurgents — not fighting.
Accordingly, CENTCOM’s commander, Gen. John Abizaid, and other commanders on the ground decided the Operation Iraqi Freedom 2 troops should have vehicles that would allow them to emphasize “speed and flexibility” over firepower, Marine Maj. Gen. John Sattler, director of Central Command Operations, told reporters from CENTCOM’s Qatar headquarters on April 28.
“There’s a time and place for [armored vehicles], and they send a very valuable message just by pulling one up to the front lines,” Sattler said.
But “counterinsurgency requires you to get up, to actually engage and work with the population,” Sattler said. “And that's tough to do from inside a tank, or a Bradley, or an armored personnel carrier.”
The force mix “was [designed] for patrolling,” Cody said.
But in March, smack in the middle of the rotation of forces between Operation Iraqi Freedom 1 and Operation Iraqi Freedom 2, the security situation in Iraq began to deteriorate.
Last week, U.S. commanders in Iraq asked for and received an emergency shipment of additional armored vehicles, Sattler said.
The shipments included 14 M1-A1 Abrams tanks that were sent to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in western Iraq; and 28 Abrams tanks that were forwarded from Europe to the 1st Infantry Division in north-central Iraq, Sattler said.