Some Germany-based 1st AD troops may be headed back to Mideast
HEIDELBERG, Germany — Some Germany-based soldiers of the 1st Armored Division are being ordered back into the combat zone, a military spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
Early contingents from most of the division’s units in Germany began arriving home over the past few weeks after completing a yearlong deployment. More than 1,600 Germany-based 1st AD soldiers have returned in all, said V Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Kevin Gainer.
But now, soldiers are being told to head back to Iraq, at least among the division’s Baumholder-based 2nd Brigade, according to Capt. James Cole, a brigade spokesman.
Division officials could not be reached for further comment. The division’s chief spokesman Maj. David Gerken — dispatched to Germany last week to arrange homecoming coverage for returning units — also was among those soldiers on his way back to Iraq.
“I don’t know if any have turned around yet,” said Gainer, adding, “we’re still waiting for official word on who’s staying to come from the Pentagon.”
The recall comes as officials are finalizing plans to shore up forces in Iraq in the wake of a surge in violence that has left about 70 coalition soldiers dead, at least 62 American troops, and scores more wounded since April 1.
Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, told reporters Monday he needs at least “two brigades’ worth of combat power” to bolster the counter insurgency effort.
With rotation of forces now under way between 1st Armored and the incoming Texas-based 1st Cavalry Division, extending parts of 1st AD beyond its one-year tour of duty remains the likely option, he said.
“I think all of us … understand that we’ve already added forces outside of the 1st Armored Division’s normal area, down into the south, into the al-Kut area,” Abizaid said. “And it’s logical to assume that there will be a delay in the arrival of some of the forces … home.”
The last main contingents from the 1st AD’s U.S.-based 3rd Brigade completed its return home to Fort Riley, Kan., over the Easter weekend.
Col. Russell Gold, who brought home the brigade’s colors Monday, was among the last 150 soldiers from the 3,500-strong brigade expected to trickle in over the next few days, according to Fort Riley spokesperson Sam Robinson.
It’s unlikely any of the 3rd Brigade units will have to return to Iraq, Robinson said.
“We believe they’re home for a while,” said Robinson.
The brigade’s arrival in Kansas leaves only a few units left to shoulder the extra load in Iraq.
1st Armored Division’s remaining two ground brigades, plus aviation and other support units, are in various stages of returning home with some soldiers — and their gear — already in Kuwait.
The 1st Cavalry Division is slated to formally assume control of the Baghdad area from 1st AD on Thursday, Lt. Col. Daniel Williams said. A news conference with the two division commanders is slated for late Wednesday.
Aside from 1st AD’s two brigades, the only other in-country candidate is the Fort Polk, La.-based 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, said Williams, which is also midway through its rotation out of Iraq. Officials have halted its return to Louisiana with about 1,000 of its 3,000 troopers already home.
Stars and Stripes reporter Nancy Montgomery in Baghdad contributed to this report.