Pentagon outlines new Iraq rotation plan
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following clarification and correction ran in Stripes' European edition for November 14, 2003:
¶ Clarification:The Nov. 7 story on new troop rotations into Iraq should have said that support units attached to parent units who are on a different rotation cycle will not have their time in Iraq shortened to match the parent cycle. Instead, the support units will remain in Iraq for a full year, shifting their support function to the replacement unit, Army Maj. Martha Brooks said.
¶ Correction:The same story also contained false information. The 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, from Fort Riley, Kan., deployed to Iraq in September and will be returning to the United States in September 2004, or one full year later, in accordance with the Army's "365 days boots on the ground" policy, Army officials said.
ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. Marines who fought to topple Saddam Hussein will be heading back to Iraq in the second phase of the Pentagon’s rotation plan.
Roughly 21,300 Marines, the majority coming from the 1st Marine Division and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, both from California, and elements of the 2nd Marine Division in North Carolina, have been committed for the yearlong deployment and will rotate into country in two phases beginning as early as January, said Marine Lt. Gen. Jan Huly, deputy commandant for plans, policy and operation. Of those, about 6,000 are Reserve Marines who will be phased in.
The Marines will replace soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne, now operating around Fallujah, west of Baghdad, he said.
In all, about 118,000 active, Reserve and Guard combat and combat support troops have been or soon will be alerted for mobilization to the theater under what is called calling “Operation Iraqi Freedom 2,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said. Of those, 85,000 are active and 43,000 are Guard and Reserve units set to replace those who will begin rotating home between January and April.
By May, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq will decrease from 130,000 now, of whom 102,000 are active duty and 28,000 are reservists, to about 105,000, with 39,000 of those reservists, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The plans call for reducing the four divisions and 17 brigade equivalents in Iraq to three divisions and 13 brigades, Rumsfeld said during a briefing.
The mass rotations in Iraq will begin in January, and is scheduled to be complete in May, Schwartz said.
The composition of the forces going into Iraq for OIF 2 is different from the current mix. For example, there are more infantry troops coming in, and fewer armor units, he said.
Some lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have called for an increase of U.S. troops in Iraq.
McCain sharply criticized the administration in a Wednesday speech, saying the United States should send at least 15,000 more troops or risk “the most serious American defeat on the global stage since Vietnam,” USA Today reported Thursday.
But Rumsfeld defended the Pentagon’s position to gradually reduce the troop number, citing that no military leaders from Central Command have come to him requesting an increase in U.S. forces, Rumsfeld said.
“I have not been told of a single U.S. commander who is recommending additional U.S. forces. Not one,” Rumsfeld said.
Moreover, the number of Iraqi security forces continues to grow. There are now 118,000 Iraqis working as members of the police force, border patrol, site security and the new Iraqi army, Rumsfeld said.
Like their predecessors, the reserve troops mobilized under OIF 2 can expect to spend at least a year actually in Iraq, with additional time mobilizing and demobilizing in the United States.
The rotational schedule is being worked so that reserve and Guard units are mobilized for a maximum of 18 months, with a maximum of 12 months “boots on ground,” Rumsfeld said.
On the Marine side, they’re working toward a maximum 12-month mobilization with seven of those spent in Iraq, he said.
Already, soldiers from several National Guard brigades have been gearing up for a deployment to Iraq. Three of the Army’s Enhanced Separate Brigades — the 39th Infantry Brigade from Arkansas, 30th Infantry Brigade from North Carolina, and 81st Infantry Brigade from Washington — are slated to rotate into Iraq next year.
The 4th Infantry Division, now deployed in Iraq along with the Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade, are leaving in the spring, as are the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division.
The 30,000 troops of the 1st Armor Division, now in Baghdad, will return to Germany gradually, beginning in February and ending in April.
The 101st Airborne Division, which is based in northern Iraq, is also leaving. The 101st originally was slated to be replaced by multinational forces that have not materialized.
Coming into Iraq will be the 2nd and 3rd brigades of the Würzburg, Germany-based 1st Infantry Division, with the rotation scheduled to take place in March and April.
The 2nd Brigade is headquartered in Schweinfurt, while the 3rd Brigade is headquartered at Rose Barracks, Vilseck. Elements of the 1st ID’s 4th Brigade, which is the division’s aviation brigade, will also be headed for Iraq. The 4th is headquartered in Katterbach.
The Fort Riley, Kan.-based 1st Brigade of the 1st ID — which is the only part of the division not based in Germany — is already in Iraq and will be leaving in the spring, Army spokeswoman Ali Bettencourt said Thursday.
The 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, and the Army’s new Stryker Brigade, the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, will also be deployed in OIF 2.
The Stryker Brigade is already starting to move from its home base in Washington state.
The 1st Marine Division will be joined by a brigade of about 7,000 soldiers from the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, which is based in Hawaii.
On Thursday, lawmakers who recently visited Iraq said they trust judgment of senior military leadership when it comes to determining how many troops are needed in Iraq.
“I have yet to have a military person tell me they need more people,” said U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. “We ought to be reluctant to override their judgment.”
In Afghanistan, the 10th Mountain Division, who arrived in August, will come out of country after serving a nine-month rotation, an increase from the six months that Army leaders said troops deployed there would serve.
They are slated to leave in May, and will be replaced by elements of the 25th Infantry Division.
Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment from the 2nd Marine Division are slated to arrive in Afghanistan to serve a nine-month rotation. They are to be replaced by a yet-to-be-identified Marine or coalition battalion.
— Stars and Stripes