US Troop Deployments


December 06, 2004

Iraq shuffle: Early arrivals, late departures
Pending elections and a relentless insurgency have the Pentagon looking at extended tours, early rotations or deploying a ready brigade

By Matthew Cox and Gina Cavallaro
Times staff writers

The need for more ground forces in Iraq has left the Pentagon with some tough choices — keep troops in Iraq longer than planned, send fresh soldiers early or deploy a slice of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Fighting in Fallujah has largely subsided, but troops are still needed to restore order in the bombed-out city, hunt insurgents in other areas and maintain a presence in Baghdad’s sprawl.

Add to that the job of preparing for and holding the country’s first free elections in January, and the number of troops now on the ground begins to appear sparse.

Pentagon leaders are weighing three possible solutions to quickly increase the estimated 138,000 troop strength in Iraq by at least a brigade, or roughly 5,000.

•Extend units in Iraq longer than 12 months, at least through the Iraq elections, to keep them on the ground with replacement units.

•Order part of the 3rd Infantry Division to begin its upcoming rotation earlier than planned.

•Deploy the 82nd Airborne Division’s ready brigade to help through the planned Jan. 30 elections.

Any of the three options will work, experts say, but the downside is, once again, the ripple effect such choices would have on the Pentagon’s attempt to limit to 12 months the time soldiers spend in the combat zone, followed by 12 months at home.

Accelerating deployments and extending forces in the combat zone not only affect troops in the units that are tapped but also can skew the entire long-range deployment rotation plan.

“There are second-order effects to everything you are going to do,” said a Pentagon planner, who asked not to be identified. “That’s what they are looking at — if the decision they are making is going to screw us up in six months.”

More troops called vital

Despite the possible ripple effect, retired Gen. John M. Keane, former Army vice chief of staff, maintains that commanders on the ground must get what they need for the mission in Iraq to be successful.

Keane spent this summer conducting a formal assessment of the war in Iraq for Gen. George Casey, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.

Additional troops, he said, would be part of a larger purpose, a mission with two specific issues: maintaining the momentum of continuing operations against the insurgents and preparing for the upcoming elections.

“I think the insurgents have been dealt a very significant blow in taking Fallujah away. It was more of an operational base than we were led to believe, and it’s going to be hard for them to replicate that base anywhere else now,” Keane said. “The important thing is not to let another robust base of operations take place.”

The second issue, the elections, is familiar for senior military leaders, who gained experience in elections they’ve orchestrated in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. But the task is manpower-intensive and could strain the ability of current forces to cover all their missions.

“It’s an additional task to what is already a very busy operation in Iraq. It will tie up a significant portion of Iraqi security forces and a large part of coalition forces as well,” said Keane, who added that a spike in violence is a sure thing at any of the more than 9,000 polling stations across the country. “Clearly, the insurgents are going to do everything they can to stop that election.”

Lt. Cmdr. Nick Balice, a spokesman at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., said he was unaware of any formal request for more troops but as the elections near, “If a determination is made that additional forces are needed or other actions are needed to increase the force level by extending troops, or whatever, a decision would be made.”

Right now, it’s unclear which units in Iraq might be tapped to stay longer if the Pentagon opts to keep soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division or 1st Cavalry Division there longer than planned. Each division is slated to return to home base between January and March.

“By extending troops, you keep an experienced force on the ground longer, and that’s a huge plus. The negative, of course, is the troops are planning to go home on a certain date,” Keane said.

In Tikrit, Iraq, at the headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division, official word of a possible extension had not yet come down.

“We’re waiting to find out if that affects us or not. We have no indication one way or another,” said Capt. Bill Coppernoll, spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, on Nov. 23. “There is definitely a real effort to keep this to a 12-month deployment.”

In April, a spike in violence against coalition forces claimed the lives of more than 130 U.S. service members and wounded scores more. It came at a time when the rotation for Operation Iraqi Freedom II was taking place, and it was decided that the 1st Armored Division and the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, along with several individual National Guard units, would be extended up to 120 days to support the incoming troops.

The Pentagon has not ruled out another similar move.

“If we were to get extended, based on what happened to the 1st Armored Division and other units, no one would really be surprised. There’s a lot of good with us being here; we have a lot of experience. It wouldn’t surprise me,” Coppernoll said.

Early deployment

Sending a brigade from 3rd ID earlier than the planned January deployment creates a similar problem, Keane said.

“There’s an impact also on the families and the holidays in terms of a negative aspect,” Keane said.

Deploying units early also could eat into preparation time, but at this point, he said, “in terms of readiness, they’re ready to go.”

The 3rd ID recently became the Army’s first division to transition three brigades to four units of action, a more modular structure that makes it easier for the division to split up and operate under separate commands.

Officials from 3rd Infantry Division say they have received no orders for an earlier deployment. As it stands, the unit’s 1st Brigade Combat Team (Unit of Action) is the first unit slated to deploy to Iraq sometime in January, said Lt. Col. Cliff Kent.

Another option is to rely on the 82nd Airborne, a rapid-deployment unit tasked with the standing mission to ensure that one of its three infantry brigades is on alert status at all times. As part of the strategic response mission, the 82nd’s Division Ready Brigade has to maintain a Division Ready Force 1 battalion capable of launching anywhere in the world within 18 hours of receiving a mission.

This was most recently put to the test when 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of 3rd Brigade, deployed to Afghanistan in early September to provide extra security for that country’s first elections in October, said 82nd spokeswoman Maj. Amy Hannah. The unit returned home in early November.

The 82nd’s current DRB is 2nd Brigade, which contains soldiers of the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment.

It has not received a deployment order, Hannah said.

The Pentagon planner said the unit could be sent to Iraq “for 30 to 45 days, and then everything else can be kept on keel.”
I note that recent reports indicate that the Government is coughing up sizable ' incentives' in the form of cash bonuses up to $ 30,000 to ' specialists' and other key personnel to stay on or re-up for another go-round in the desert sun...

Will the dangling of big bucks help fill the void?
Rocketeer said:
I note that recent reports indicate that the Government is coughing up sizable ' incentives' in the form of cash bonuses up to $ 30,000 to ' specialists' and other key personnel to stay on or re-up for another go-round in the desert sun...

Will the dangling of big bucks help fill the void?
This is nothing new. Back in '88, my reenlistment bonus for 6 years was $30K.

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