Rotation to Provide Right Mix of Forces
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2004 Possibly the largest rotation of military forces in United States history is about to take place, as thousands of troops prepare to relieve units that have been in Iraq and Afghanistan for as long as a year, the director of operations for the Joint Staff said here today.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz said the rotation will involve all varieties of active duty and reserve combat and support forces. He said the goal of the rotation will be to satisfy the needs of ground commanders for the right kinds of forces -- especially civil affairs, military police and intelligence units.
"Clearly, before May 1, (2003), when we were still involved in major combat operations, you had forces configured for that purpose," he said. "As we have moved into a stability and support operations phase -- that is, to provide a secure and stable environment from which the promise of the Iraqi people can actually be manifested -- what we've done is sort of optimized the forces for that mission."
Schwartz said units heading for the theater will be "a little less heavy" than they were before the war, and "a little more mobile, more 'infantry-centric.'"
Meanwhile, Schwartz said, a few units will have to remain in the theater a bit longer before returning home. He said the Defense Department recently approved the extension of selected Army units past their 12-month rotation period.
Schwartz said the extension probably will be no longer than 60 days, and that the number of troops affected would be a relatively small. He said about 1,600 troops from 12 units would have to be extended past the one-year mark.
"That's 12 units out of 1,250," Schwartz explained. "That's a relatively small percentage, but that's not insignificant to the individual troops that are obviously involved in this."
Schwartz said the Pentagon did everything possible to avoid having units going beyond a 12-month deployment, from shortening the training time for successor units to reducing reception staging and onward movement and integration.
"We even tried to leave equipment in theater, which would also reduce transit time for equipment on aircraft," he said.
Mission was another reason for the delay of some troops returning home. Certain missions simply could not allow for gaps.
"We came to the conclusion reluctantly, but appropriately, that we had to ask just a touch more from our people," Schwartz said, adding gratitude for the affected service members' work and for their understanding that a significant effort was made to avoid extending their deployment.
Troops about to relieve their comrades have a clear mission to "complete the deal," Schwartz said. "And so they're going with the same sense of commitment and recognition -- that this is to deliver on the promise that the president has articulated," he added.
The general said young soldiers deploying for the first time understand that this is what service is: both routine and challenging. "And clearly this is a more challenging period," he said. "And all of us get tested during periods like this; that is something to look forward to. What young soldiers should know is that they are going to serve a very important cause, they are going to be well- led, and that their work is worthy."
Schwartz said thus far the increasing number of Iraqi security forces being trained by the United States has not affected the rotation of troops to Iraq. But he added that "over time, and not a very long time, the Iraqi forces will be assuming more and more of the obligation associated with the stability mission."