V Corps homecoming up in the air
July 25, 2003
ARLINGTON, Va. — One day after announcing plans to cover the next two years of deployments to Iraq, Army officials Thursday still were tweaking those schedules and scrambling to update divisional officials.
On Wednesday, Gen. John Keane, the Army’s acting chief of staff, listed the plans for several Army divisions, but failed to make any mention of when V Corps soldiers might be coming home.
On Thursday, Army staffers from Washington to Germany couldn’t answer any time line questions about Germany-based V Corps troops, referring media questions back and forth across the ocean between public affairs officials in the States and overseas.
Right up until the moment Keane stood behind the lectern Wednesday for a press briefing on the Iraq rotations, staffers were making last-minute changes to briefing slides.
And some of the divisions tapped to replace currently deployed troops were caught off guard by Keane’s announcement.
Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade out of Vicenza, Italy, attached to the Army’s 4th Infantry Division operating in Northern Iraq, are scheduled to leave Iraq in April. One public affairs officer with the 173rd learned of the brigade’s redeployment plans from the Stars and Stripes instead of the Army.
And, shortly after Keane said the 82nd Airborne Division had been tapped to relieve exhausted soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division in September, phone lines at the Army’s top public affairs office at the Pentagon lit up — with calls from 82nd Airborne staffers looking for information, said public affairs officials both in North Carolina and at the Pentagon.
While details still are being hashed out, officials said they are telling soldiers, their families and the press that, as a general rule, soldiers can expect to return home a year after they arrive in country, said Maj. Martha Brooks, an Army spokeswoman.
Soldiers who had been affected by the Army’s stop-loss, which since has been lifted, don’t have to wait for the rest of their units’ redeployment schedules if their ETS orders have them separating or retiring earlier, said Lt. Col. Stan Heath, an Army spokesman.
One deployment of note is that the Army’s new 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team will replace the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in March-April.
Deployment of the Stryker Brigade out of Fort Lewis, Wash., shows Pentagon leadership the Army’s efforts to become a lighter and more agile force, Keane said.
The Stryker, an eight-wheeled infantry carrier upon which the six planned Interim Brigade Combat Team is focused, successfully completed recent extensive training and testing, and the system and accompanying soldiers are ready for the deployment challenge, Keane said.
Also, more than 7,000 soldiers from the 15,000-soldier 25th Infantry Division-Light at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, will be sent to Afghanistan in two deployments next year in support of the war on terrorism, Army officials said Wednesday.
The soldiers are scheduled to deploy in two rotations of 3,500 each beginning in February. The second group will be deployed in August 2004, 25th Division spokesman Troy Griffin said.
Of the Army’s 33 active-duty brigades, 16 are operating in Iraq, two in Afghanistan, two in South Korea and one in the Balkans. Of the remaining 12 brigades, nine of them either are preparing for deployments, coming off completed ones, retraining, or are on standby in the event of a crisis in Korea.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.