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Officials Announce Plan for Iraq Troop Rotations into 2004

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2003 – Defense officials have come up with a troop-rotation plan for Iraq that will give the commander of U.S. Central Command "the force he needs to decisively defeat those elements that threaten security," the acting Army chief said July 23.

To meet this requirement, the troop-rotation plan will use active Army brigade combat teams and forces from the other military services, including the reserve components, Gen. John Keane said in a Pentagon press briefing.

The plan also calls for more use of international forces and rapidly developing Iraqi police, civil defense and military forces.

In the future, Iraq tours for U.S. service members will be "up to 12 months," Keane said in laying out the details for upcoming unit rotations.

As the first unit in, the first to leave Iraq will be remaining forces of the 3rd Infantry Division. Keane reiterated previous announcements that 3ID troops, who are deployed from Fort Stewart, Ga., will be out by September. A maneuver brigade task force and headquarters from the 82nd Airborne Division will replace them.

Keane noted that the 82nd will serve a six-month rotation because the division headquarters served during major combat operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Many 82nd Airborne troops have seen duty recently in Afghanistan, as well.

As far as remaining units in Iraq, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force will be replaced by a Polish-led multinational division in September or October. Fourth Infantry Division will be replaced by 1st Infantry Division, deployed from Germany, with an attached infantry brigade from the Army National Guard, in March or April 2004.

In the same timeframe, 1st Cavalry Division, from Fort Hood, Texas, with an attached National Guard brigade, will replace 1st Armored Division, which will return to Germany; and another brigade from the 1st Cav. will replace 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment.

The transformational Stryker Brigade 1, the Fort Lewis, Wash., unit that has been undergoing operational testing and evaluation for several months, will arrive in Iraq in October 2003 and replace the 1st Armored Cavalry Regiment in spring of 2004. These units will all be on 12-month rotation schedules.

Officials are planning for an as-yet-unnamed multinational unit to replace the 101st Airborne Division, Keane said.

He noted that two other American units will redeploy without replacements in early 2004. The 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division will return to Fort Bragg, N.C., in January 2004, while the 173rd Airborne Brigade will redeploy to its home base in Vincenza, Italy, in April 2004.

The general said officials worked out a plan they hope provides Gen. John Abizaid, CENTCOM commander, the forces necessary to "meet his requirements while at the same time permitting the flow of coalition forces and permitting the recruiting and training and developing of the Iraqi police, the civil defense, and the new Iraqi army."

The U.S. military is maintaining 156,000 troops in Iraq. The vast majority of those, 133,000, are Army soldiers. An additional 34,000 soldiers are serving in Kuwait. During fiscal 2003, 73 percent - 24 of 33 - of the active Army's brigade combat teams have been or are deployed, Keane said.

Officials recognize that this stresses the force. But, a Joint Chiefs official said, it hasn't "overstressed" the Army.

Army Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, speaking at the same press conference, said there is no indication the Army is having trouble meeting its challenges.

Keane agreed. The 37-year-veteran said he's never seen such an "intensity" and "dogged determination to succeed" in American soldiers.

"It's ... the first time since World War II that we have deployed our soldiers directly for the American people," he said. "(The soldiers) understand what this war on terrorism is all about. And they're citizens of this country, and they know what 9/11 has meant to this country."

Even though it puts them in harm's way, soldiers are committed to winning the war on terrorism. "For our soldiers, the global war on terrorism is personal. It's often brutal. It's frequently terrorizing. It is very demanding, and death is always a silent companion," Keane said. "Yet, day in and day out they perform the mission with extraordinary dedication and competence."

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