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Troop Rotations Won't Affect Readiness, Defense Leaders Say

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2003 – Troop rotations in Iraq during the next several months will create a temporary transition time in Iraqbut will in no way affect U.S. readiness in Iraq or anywhere else in the world, Defense leaders told Pentagon reporters today.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld acknowledged that moving a large percentage of the 123,000 combat-experienced troops from Iraq will create a temporary sense of turbulence, which he said "is always undesirable."

"You lose situational awareness, you lose relationships, you lose the experience," he said. "The people going over are ready, but the people there are experienced and really know their stuff."

On the plus side, Rumsfeld said, units deploying to Iraq will be better configured to meet current tasks than the departing troops.

In an effort to minimize disruptions during the transition, Rumsfeld said defense leaders must "manage the transition very carefully.

"There is going to have to be overlap," he said. ""We are going to have to be sensitive to the fact that the knowledge that is built up there and the relationships have to be transferred in a way that is appropriate."

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters the rotations will introduce huge logistical challenges as well. "In the next four months, we are going to pull off a logistics feat that will rival any in history, I think, as we move a major part of the Army," he said. "Well over the majority of the Army combat units and a lot of the reserve component will move."

Rumsfeld acknowledged that redeploying troops will "clearly have to be reconstituted" when they return to their home bases. "Any element that was over there in combat is going to have to come back and get their equipment fixed (and) engage in the kind of training that their unit is designed to deal with," he said.

"When you're using the force as hard as we're using the force right now," Myers agreed, "you have to have time to regenerate the force when it comes home."

Myers said defense plans account for the time required for these forces to reconstitute themselves and that the U.S. military will remain fully ready even in the event that it is called to respond to an additional war or contingency before all troops return home from Iraq.

Both Rumsfeld and Myers were quick to dismiss a reporter's questions about the ability of the units returning from Iraq to fit into those plans as they reconstitute.

"The forces that are coming back have just experienced something that you cannot experience in peacetime," Rumsfeld said.

"They have just fought a war. And they have developed skills and knowledge about deployments and about combat and about logistics and about redeployment. It's the kind of thing you'd spend billions of dollars conducting an exercise to give them that kind of experience."

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