DoD Announces Deployment Adjustments for Units in Iraq
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2004 The Defense Department will keep about 6,500 experienced troops on the ground through the Iraqi elections, currently scheduled for Jan. 27.
Soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, and the 1st Infantry Division headquarters, both currently in Iraq, were officially told about the deployment adjustment by their commanders Oct. 28, according to a senior DoD official.
The affected troops had originally been slated for 10-month deployments. The official said these deployment timeframes were part of a plan to stagger rotations to avoid overloading the military transportation and logistics systems.
As troops in Iraq were getting official word of the extension, members of the New York Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division headquarters learned Oct. 28 that their upcoming deployment will be adjusted by 30 to 60 days, the official said. The headquarters troops mobilized May 27 to train for their mission at Fort Drum, N.Y.
The DoD official said with an increase in violence and the shift of the Iraqi elections from early January to Jan. 27, Army Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, preferred to avoid swapping out a headquarters element during the critical Iraqi election period.
Casey made the official request in late September, and Army Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, made the decision Oct. 16, with the concurrence of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the official said.
The adjustments will keep an estimated 3,500 members of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, or "Blackjack Brigade," in Iraq an additional two months, not to exceed their "12-month boots-on-the-ground" goal, said the official.
Also, about 3,000 soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division headquarters, based in Wurzburg, Germany, will remain in Iraq for longer than initially planned. The "Big Red One" headquarters was originally scheduled to be replaced by the 42nd Infantry Division headquarters before the Iraqi elections.
Although these adjustments continue to keep the deployments to the 12-month goal, said the official, he understands the troops' frustration over the extension. Some affected soldiers were expecting to leave Iraq as soon as November.
But the official noted that those troops also "understand that military duty means the mission comes first."
"Our mission is to get the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces in place so that they can achieve self-governance," he said.
Meanwhile, about 3,000 members of the 42nd Infantry Division headquarters will alter their deployment by 30 to 60 days, the official said. The decision is no reflection of the guardsmen's capabilities, he stressed. "The 42nd Infantry Division is trained, ready and equipped to execute this rotation," he said.
The official said deploying them sooner simply didn't make sense. Much of the equipment they will use in Iraq will still be in use by the 1st Infantry Division troops they will replace. And although leaders considered deploying the guardsmen to Kuwait before moving them into Iraq, they discarded that idea in light of the high threat level in Kuwait, the official said.
"The bottom line was, why deploy them now?" he said. "We keep them at home station, we keep them out of harm's way for a longer period for time, we give them more opportunities to train, and they get to stay home with their families for Christmas."
The official said the 42nd Infantry Division's deployment to Iraq will mark an important milestone. "This is the first reserve (component) division to deploy into combat since World War II," he noted.
This did not include previous operations in Kosovo and Bosnia, which, he observed, "were more peace enforcement and stability operations." In contrast, Iraq "is full-blown, close-with-and-destroy-the-enemy kind of stuff. This is combat."
Formed in 1917 from hand-picked National Guard units spanning 26 states and the District of Columbia, the 42nd was dubbed "The Rainbow Division," by Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was instrumental in forming it.
The division currently includes units in eight states: New York, Vermont, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Kentucky, Florida and Illinois.
The Rainbow Division has been an active contributor to the war on terror. Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, battalions from New York City armories the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry; 1st Battalion, 101st Cavalry; 642nd Division Aviation Support Battalion; and the 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Regiment provided immediate emergency response.
In addition, thousands of the division's New York Army National Guard soldiers and its division headquarters supported security and recovery operations in Manhattan as part of Joint Task Force 42 following 9/11. Hundreds of Rainbow Division soldiers served more than a year of active duty in this role.
Additional soldiers from the division have deployed to Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom or providing homeland-security missions for Operation Noble Eagle.