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1st Armored Unit Greets Extension With ‘Collective Shrug’

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2006 – The soldiers of 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, greeted news of their extension in Iraq with “a collective shrug,” the unit’s commander said during a Pentagon teleconference today.

“Nobody is very happy about it,” said Army Col. Sean MacFarland, the commander of the Ramadi-based unit. “I’m not particularly happy about it myself. But the soldiers of the brigade have shown what true professionals they are by taking the news in stride.”

The unit was due to leave Anbar province, where it serves as part of Multinational Force West, and rotate back to its home station in Friedberg, Germany, on Jan. 13, 2007. DoD announced Sept. 25 that the 1st Brigade would stay in Iraq another 46 days -- through Feb. 28.

MacFarland said he is proud of the way the soldiers greeted the news. “I’ve been going around and talking to the units of the brigade, … but the soldiers I’ve talked to so far said they understand they have a job to do and they are going to do it to the very end,” he said.

The colonel said receiving the news of the extension in advance “certainly helped.” Another Army unit -- the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team -- was redeploying out of Iraq when it was notified of a six-month extension in country. Some soldiers in that unit had already redeployed to Alaska and were sent back to Iraq.

MacFarland said he was candid with the soldiers of his brigade. “American soldiers fight best when they are well-informed and this has been no exception,” he said. “I told them that the situation in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, has not allowed us to reduce our forces.”

The U.S. force level in Iraq will stay at 15 combat brigades through spring. “In order to maintain our current force level, a brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division will deploy to replace us, but they will not have a full year of ‘interdeployment dwell time’ in time for us to get home on schedule,” MacFarland said.

He said the brigade’s soldiers completely understand the need for the 3rd ID brigade to complete its training before re-entering combat. “We recognize that every drop of sweat spent in training prevents pints of blood on the battlefield,” the colonel said. “We had the opportunity to properly train for the fight our soldiers have done extremely well. We want to turn the battle over to a well-trained unit that can advance the mission for which we have paid so dearly.”

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