Predictability, Stability at Heart of Rotation Policy
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 6, 2003 Predictability and stability are at the heart of the new troop rotation policy DoD officials announced today.
DoD started notifying a total of between 70,000 and 75,000 active and reserve component service members Nov. 5 for duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. It is a "ground heavy" deployment, although some Navy and Air Force personnel are affected.
"In this force rotation, we've tried to give people the longest notice possible, so that they, their families, their employers will have some time to prepare," said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during a press conference today.
The 1st Marine Division augmented by a brigade from the Army's 25th Infantry Division will deploy to Iraq. The Marines will deploy about 20,000; the Army brigade will have 7,000. The division will serve in the area now patrolled by the 82nd Airborne Division in the western part of the country.
In addition, 43,000 reserve component personnel have been alerted that they may be mobilized for service in Operation Iraqi Freedom. DoD also alerted some 3,700 National Guard and reserve forces who may be mobilized for service in Operation Enduring Freedom.
"By earlier notifications, we've tried to provide additional time for training up," Rumsfeld said.
The deployment will drop the number of troops in Iraq from today's 130,000 to about 105,000 by May 2004. The number of troops in Afghanistan will remain at around 10,000.
The four U.S. divisions in Iraq will drop to three. The current 17 brigade- sized units in Iraq will drop to 13. Officials anticipate the number of coalition forces will remain around 24,000.
Both Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, also at the press conference, said numbers of personnel don't tell the full story. "Numbers do not necessarily equate with capability," Rumsfeld said.
"We're bringing in forces that are appropriate to deal with the evolving threats in Iraq today, including more mobile infantry elements," he continued. "So while the number of U.S. forces may be level or decline slightly, this much is certain: The overall capability of the security forces in Iraq will increase."
"This plan is fully rooted in the operational assessments of our commanders on the ground," Myers. "I think both the secretary and I and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have full faith and confidence in their force requirement assessments."
Myers said the plan is workable and sustains the U.S. commitment to the Iraqi people, the coalition and the requirements of local commanders.
The big increase in capability will come from the Iraqis themselves. Officials expect the 118,000 now Iraqis involved in security aspects to jump to 150,000 by the middle of 2004 and possibly 200,000 by year's end.
The U.S. Army has imposed a "stop-loss" program only for the units affected. The service will stabilize all active duty units affected by the rotation plan 90 days before they deploy. Army Reserve and Army National Guard units will come under stop-loss once they receive alert notifications.
Decisions still remain to be made on some 10,000 service members. Officials promise those notifications will come in the next few weeks.
The idea behind the Nov. 5 start-up of alerts and deployment orders is to contact units and individuals as soon as possible and to mobilize the forces as late as possible, said senior defense officials.
"It started with the (secretary's) long-standing principle of being respectful to the force," said a senior defense official on background Nov. 5. "The secretary and chairman have redesigned the deployment process in real time and this reflects a better, more refined understanding of the impact on the force that these kind of decisions have."
The early alert gives active duty and reserve component personnel time to put their affairs in order before readying for mobilization or deployment.
All reserve component service members will have at least 30 days' notice before being mobilized, officials said. The plan also seeks to minimize the wear and tear on reserve component personnel by ensuring they are not mobilized too often. Of the 43,000 reserve component members affected by the rotation plan, only 720 Army reservists and about 2,700 Marines have been mobilized once in the last six years.
The system is still not perfect, Rumsfeld said. "There will be units with unique capabilities that will have to be remobilized or extended, including a small number that may be in the process of demobilizing," he noted. "Some of the units being notified will have several months to prepare before they receive mobilization orders, while others will receive those orders soon.
"But while there will be imperfections along the way, the services have made every effort to ensure that the Guard and Reserve forces are dealt with respectfully, just as each of them has demonstrated their respect and love of our country by volunteering to serve our country," he continued.
The current rotation announcement is in addition to the one given in July for the 1st Cavalry Division, the 1st Infantry Division and three National Guard Enhanced Separate Brigades from North Carolina, Washington state and Arkansas to deploy in the first six months of 2004.
Officials said the rotation is a capabilities-based approach: Even with fewer troops, the capabilities of the U.S. component will remain the same. The units going to Iraq and Afghanistan are infantry units, but commanders are changing their set-up.
For example, there are three battalions in each of the 1st Cavalry Division's brigades. Only one battalion will have armored equipment such as Bradley fighting vehicles or Abrams tanks. The other two battalions will be outfitted with "up-armored" humvees.
Another capability going to Iraq is the Stryker Brigade from Fort Lewis, Wash. The brigade has more infantrymen than the normal unit, it has improved intelligence and surveillance assets integral to the unit, and it has the new Stryker wheeled vehicle, which should make for better agility in Iraq.
The Iraq deployment will be staggered so new units can learn from those they are relieving. "We're trying to arrange it so that the transition in country does not happen all at once and instead will be staggered with sufficient overlap so that there can be a transfer of relationships and so that the situational awareness of the forces on the ground is passed on to their replacements," Rumsfeld said.
The rotation is independent of any changes in the force "footprint" in Iraq. U.S. Central Command leader Army Gen. John Abizaid and his staff are working on changes to bases for some units in Iraq.
Officials stressed that the overall security capability in Iraq continues to go up because of the Iraqi component's capabilities. "We've had notable successes with the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps," a senior defense official said. For example, the corps' assistance in Karbala recently was "integral to the success of the operation."
For the Army reserve components, mobilization means the call-up could be for as long as 18 months. This enables the units to train up for the deployment, to spend a year "boots on the ground" in Iraq, and to demobilize. Army Reserve and National Guard personnel would be able to take advantage of the 45 days' leave they would accumulate in the 18-month mobilization. The reserve component personnel come from 397 different units.
The Navy will call up 1,000 reservists for deployment to Southwest Asia and the Air Force will have a mix of reservists and active duty, primarily to support the ground effort.
The Army's 3rd Corps from Fort Hood, Texas, will replace 5th Corps. Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez will remain as the commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7 in Baghdad. Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, 3rd Corps commander, will serve as Sanchez's deputy.
In Afghanistan, the 25th Infantry Division will relieve the 10th Mountain Division. The 10th Mountain soldiers will spend nine months in country, while troops from the 25th will spend 12 months in place.