Iraqi army and U.S. army soldiers prepare to fire a mortar round during a training mission May 11 in Latifiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad. (Hadi Mizban / The Associated Press)
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More than 37,500 soldiers will deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan beginning in the fall, and for the first time, the Defense Department announcement reflected the changing mission as American forces prepare to draw down in Iraq.
About 30,000 of the deploying soldiers will go to Iraq beginning in the fall through early 2010 in the form of three division headquarters and eight brigade combat teams, according to the July 14 announcement. These units will replace units coming home from Iraq, so there will be no increase in troop levels due to the announced deployments.
However, four of the eight BCTs slated for deployment will go not as combat units but as advisory and assistance brigades, units that will be augmented by teams dedicated to training Iraqi army and police.
Modular brigades will conduct security force assistance missions and replace ad hoc units with a more coherent structure, increase efficiency and ease the current operational tempo, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Lee Packnett said.
American combat forces pulled out of Iraq's cities on June 30.
As security there continues to improve, and based on the timeline in the security agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, commanders said they expect to draw down to 50,000 troops in Iraq by the end of September 2010 and be out of the country by the end of 2011.
Now there are about 132,000 U.S. troops in Iraq; about 101,600 of them are soldiers.
The mission in Iraq continues, senior leaders have said, though combat actions have diminished.
"Outside the cities, U.S. forces will continue to conduct full spectrum and stability operations by, with and through our Iraqi security force partners," Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has said. "Our combined efforts will establish a layer of defense as Iraqis secure the cities. Our combat forces, partnering with the [Iraqis], will secure the belts and borders in an attempt to eliminate safe havens and sanctuaries, and to limit freedom of movement of insurgents, and prevent the facilitation of foreign fighters through the borders."
The active-duty soldiers preparing to deploy are slated to serve 12-month tours, while the Army National Guard soldiers will be mobilized for no more than 12 months.
Active Army soldiers had been deploying for 15 months beginning in April 2007 when the Army supported the surge of five brigades in Iraq, but reverted back to 12-month tours in August 2008.
There currently are 10 active-duty brigade combat teams in Iraq and three in Afghanistan. A fourth Afghanistan-bound BCT, the first Stryker brigade to deploy there, is in the process of deploying.
The three headquarters units that will deploy in coming months, which will provide command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in support of security operations across Iraq., They are:
• 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
• 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.
• 1st Armored Division, Wiesbaden, Germany.
The brigade combat teams that will replace units now in Iraq to conduct full spectrum and stability operations from outside Iraq's cities in partnership with Iraqi security forces are:
• 1st BCT, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas. The unit completed its most recent Iraq tour in February 2007. This will be the unit's third tour in Iraq.
• 1st BCT, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y. The BCT has deployed three times. Its most recent deployment, to Iraq, ended in November 2008.
• 2nd BCT, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum. This unit has already served 40 months in combat. Its most recent deployment to Iraq ended in November 2007.
The advisory and assistance brigades, which will replace units now in Iraq, but serve in an advisory and assistance role and mentor and train Iraqi security forces, are:
• 3rd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga. This brigade has spent 41 months in theater. It completed its most recent deployment, to Iraq, in June 2008.
• 2nd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart. This will be the BCT's fourth deployment to Iraq. Its last tour ended in July 2008.
• 1st BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart. This brigade also will be deploying to Iraq for the fourth time. The unit's last tour ended in April 2008.
• 3rd BCT, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo. The BCT already has spent 38 months in Iraq. This will be its fourth deployment there.
In addition, the Florida National Guard's 53rd BCT will deploy as a security force brigade, tasked with security force missions such as base defense and route security across Iraq and Kuwait. The 53rd originally was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan, but was redirected to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Also July 14, DoD announced two upcoming deployments to Afghanistan affecting 7,500 soldiers:
• 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division, of Fort Campbell, Ky., will deploy to Afghanistan late this fall with about 3,800 soldiers.
The 3rd BCT has spent 44 months in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The unit returned from its most recent deployment — 14 months in Iraq — in November 2008. Its last tour in Afghanistan was in 2002.
• The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, in Vicenza, Italy, will deploy in the winter with about 3,700 soldiers.
The unit has served twice before in Afghanistan, most recently coming home in August 2008.