Officials Detail Iraq Rotation Plans to Congress
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2004 Military officials detailed to the House Armed Services Committee just how the troop rotation plan for Iraq will work.
At the heart of the matter is how the military takes troops that are in contact with the enemy and replaces them with fresh forces. The troops leaving must give information to those replacing them so there is continuity of mission. Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, the director of operations with the Joint Staff, briefed the congressmen today.
The current set-up in Iraq consists of four Army divisions and supporting forces -- the 82nd Airborne Division, the 1st Armored Division, the 4th Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division. Moving these forces out and replacing them with a three-division set is already under way, Schwartz said. The transition already has begun, he said, with some 13,000 personnel already moved out. About 130,000 U.S. service members mostly Army are in Iraq today.
The three divisions moving into Iraq are the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in the west, the Army's 1st Cavalry Division in and around Baghdad, and the Army's 1st Infantry Division in the north and central sectors. Separate brigades enhanced by reserve component troops also will flow into the area. Schwartz said 14 brigade equivalents will make up the U.S. forces in Iraq.
In addition to the combat troops, the logistic effort will also change. The theater support command will remain, but the personnel will turn over. Schwartz said the number will drop from 66,000 today to around 50,000. He attributed the lower number to some tasks being handled by contractors, as well as other "efficiencies."
Army personnel will serve 12 months "boots-on-the-ground," Schwartz said, while the Marines will spend seven months in Iraq. The first Marine group will arrive shortly and will serve its seven months, then a second set of about 25,000 Marines will arrive and take over, officials said.
"The imperative for us was to maintain competency on the ground," Schwartz said. "Units in Iraq have a year's experience with the situation in their areas. We worked to maintain competency in a number of ways."
One way is leadership. The staff of Combined Joint Task Force 7 will not all leave at once, he said. The Army's 5th Corps, home-based in Germany, has provided most of the staff of the command. Many staff members will remain as the 3rd Corps from Fort Hood, Texas, moves in.
Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, 3rd Corps commander, began visiting Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez in September, Schwartz said. Sanchez, 5th Corps commander, also is commander of CJTF 7 in Iraq. The 3rd Corps staff went through a training period that culminated in being certified by U.S. Joint Forces Command in December.
Other leadership activities include the division commanders, staffs and brigade personnel working together toward a smooth transition, the general said. Division staffs began visiting Iraq early, and each of the divisions has been in active, almost daily contact. As the transition came closer, the visits picked up.
"Those leaders went to Iraq and visited with the folks they were going to succeed, and exchanged information face-to-face," Schwartz said. "This allowed units to tailor training plans to the particular area and needs of their locations."
To aid the continuity, at least one brigade deployed early in a division sector or remained in a division sector, the general said. A case in point is the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, which is remaining in the western sector as the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force arrives.
When inbound units arrive in the theater, they will spend two weeks in Kuwait to link up with equipment and to acclimatize. When they arrive at their Iraqi "battle stations," there will be a two-week handoff between the units. This will make sure all personnel get the benefit of the experience of the departing unit.
The transition plan calls for a good hand-off among the units, and that necessitates some units who have been in theater a year spending more time in Iraq, Schwartz said.
"In November last year, we identified some 267 units about 20,000 personnel all together who we were looking at as perhaps being in a situation where we might have to extend certain people beyond that 12 months to ensure that we had overlap between the outgoing and incoming unit," Schwartz said. "We worked this very hard, and ultimately reduced the 267 units to 12. It turned out to be 1,567 personnel."
Most will stay an extra two weeks, with three units spending up to 60 days beyond their nominal departure date, the general said.