View Full Version : U.S. Prepares For Troop Rotation

Phantom Blooper
12-22-03, 07:57 AM
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
December 22, 2003

Shortly after the start of the new year, American military forces will begin what may be the largest mass troop rotation in their history.

Over the next five months more than 250,000 troops will be moving into and out of Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. Fresh forces will be replacing combat-weary soldiers scheduled to come home after spending 12 months in war zones.

Making sure this massive undertaking runs on schedule and with as few glitches as possible is the responsibility of Atlanta-based Third Army headquarters at Fort McPherson.

The 900-plus Third Army headquarters soldiers, under the command of Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, are well into planning for the swapout. "This is probably the largest movement of forces we've had at one time. The challenge for my headquarters is we have to make it happen in both directions, not just in one direction," said McKiernan.

Making the moves doubly difficult will be the fact that fresh troops will replace veteran forces while both are under threat from terrorist attacks.

McKiernan calls it "a relief in place [while] in contact."

"While current operations continue and we fight what has accurately been called a counterinsurgency, units will move up and [learn from] units in Iraq now," he said.

The mission is not without hazards, Pentagon officials admit.

"It's appropriate to be worried about it," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said at a recent Pentagon news conference.

When new units come in, Rumsfeld said, "you lose situational awareness, you lose relationships, you lose the experience. The people going over are ready, but the people there are experienced and really know their stuff."

McKiernan said troops now on duty in Iraq will not leave until the commander on the ground feels the replacements are ready for the job.

By the time the rotations are finished in early summer, the 130,000 American forces now in Iraq will be replaced by about 105,000 of their fellow soldiers and Marines.

As many as 20 other countries could be sending troops to assist in Iraq, McKiernan said.

Units now in Iraq that will be coming home include the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) from Fort Campbell, Ky., the 4th Infantry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, and the 1st Armored Division, based in Germany.

Replacements will include the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, the 1st Infantry Division, based in Germany, and elements of a Marine Expeditionary Force, in addition to thousands of National Guard and reserve support forces.

In addition, three National Guard combat brigades will be sent to Iraq. They are the 30th Infantry Brigade from North Carolina, the 39th Infantry Brigade from Arkansas and the 81st Armored Brigade from Washington state.

The regular units will train and prepare for shipment overseas from their home bases, whether in the U.S. or Europe. The National Guard combat units will either train with the units with which they will deploy or go to mobilization stations such as Fort Stewart, Fort Bragg, N.C., or Fort Hood to get ready. Many of the National Guard and Army Reserve units that will support the combat units will also go through the mobilization stations to prepare for their assignments.

The decision to replace entire units was made earlier this year by the Pentagon when it decreed that units would serve 12 months in theater. That prevents soldiers from being sent piecemeal to units, a policy that was highly criticized during the Vietnam War as being detrimental to unit cohesion and combat effectiveness.

For National Guard and Reserve troops being sent overseas, that means about 18 months of active duty, including mobilization and post-deployment time.

The new units will probably not have as many M-1A1 Abrams tanks or Bradley Fighting Vehicles as previous units, McKiernan said. Instead, efforts are being made to increase the number of armored Humvees that provide more protection than the standard Humvee from roadside ambushes involving bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.

McKiernan said he intends to spend the bulk of the next five months in the Middle East. He still has a headquarters in Kuwait, where during the war in Iraq he and his staff helped plan and run the ground war that helped topple the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Exact dates for the rotations have not been announced, but McKiernan said all units being sent overseas are well into their training for it.