Troop Rotation to Iraq Continues, Units Assuming Control
By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, March 31, 2004 – The largest rotation of U.S. forces since World War II continues in Iraq, Defense Department officials said today.
In all more than 250,000 U.S. service members are affected.
Planning for the rotation began months ago. New units worked with units in Iraq to learn their new missions and to plan the movement. In December, new units began flowing into the region, and in January, they began the relief-in-place process.
Officials expect the rotation to continue through May, when 110,000 U.S. service members will be in place. They will replace the 130,000 Americans who have been serving in the region. When the rotation is complete, about 80,000 soldiers, 25,000 Marines and 5,000 Air Force and Navy personnel will be in Iraq. Fourteen brigades will have replaced 17 brigades.
To date, about 95 percent of the service members deploying to Iraq have arrived in the region. More than 90 percent of the cargo has arrived, and more than 60 percent of the personnel due to return to home stations have done so.
Some moves already have occurred. Task Force Olympia has relieved the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul. The largest unit in Task Force Olympia is the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (called the Stryker Brigade) from Fort Lewis, Wash. The 101st has returned to Fort Campbell, Ky.
Other units leaving the region are the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C.; the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Carson, Colo.; the 1st Armored Division based in Germany and Fort Riley, Kansas; the 173rd Airborne Brigade from Vicenza, Italy; and the 4th Infantry Division based at both Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Carson.
Arriving Army units include the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood. The division also will command the 39th Brigade Combat Team from the Arkansas National Guard. The division will relieve the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad, and is due to take over responsibility April 15.
The 1st Infantry Division from Wurzburg, Germany, and Fort Riley, Kansas, has relieved the 4th Infantry Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Tikrit and Kirkuk, respectively. The 30th Brigade Combat Team of the North Carolina National Guard also is part of the 1st Infantry.
Last week, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., relieved the 82nd Airborne Division and the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in the hotspots of Fallujah, Ramadi and the western part of Iraq. The 1st MEF also will command the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley and the 81st Armored Brigade of the Washington State National Guard.
While the number of American forces is dropping, Iraqi assets will more than make up the cut. A new Iraqi army brigade should be operational by the time the coalition returns sovereignty to an Iraqi government June 30. In addition, units of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps will work with the units. Baghdad officials said more than 210,000 Iraqis are involved in security work in the country.
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