View Full Version : Units deploying to Japan can expect Iraq instead

12-30-03, 08:42 AM
Date: December 29, 2003

Units deploying to Japan can expect Iraq instead

By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer

Most Marines scheduled to deploy to Japan for routine, six-month rotations in the coming year instead most likely will be headed to Iraq.
Three of four infantry battalions that normally would deploy to Okinawa under the Unit Deployment Program will be sent to support Operation Iraqi Freedom II, as the postwar operation in Iraq is called, a Marine spokesman said Dec. 19.

Two California-based battalions currently arriving in Okinawa for regular UDP rotations — 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, from Twentynine Palms and 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, from Camp Pendleton — have begun preparing to replace Army units leaving Iraq this spring.

The third battalion slated for deployment to Okinawa early next year — and now likely a contender for deployment to Iraq — is 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines, a Reserve unit based in Bridgeton, Mo.

“There are very strong indications that battalions previously scheduled to support the UDP will be redirected to support OIF II,” said Capt. Dan McSweeney, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon.

“Preliminary movement plans indicate that the two initial battalions will arrive in Okinawa and redeploy to Iraq,” McSweeney said.

The diversion will significantly reduce the number of Marines sent to Okinawa at least until March 2005. Under the UDP, Marine infantry units deploy to Pacific Command in Okinawa, typically for six months.

Details still are being worked out, and it is unclear when 3/4 and 1/5 would leave for Iraq, McSweeney said.

The move comes as Corps officials prepare to support the new mission in Iraq, slated to begin in March. Originally, the Corps was asked to send six battalions for occupation duty during the course of the Corps’ 12-month mission there. But officials announced Nov. 6 that three more battalions would be required to get the job done.

The bulk of the Marines slated for duty in Iraq will come from I Marine Expeditionary Force. Lt. Gen. James Conway, commanding general of I MEF, was expected to announce the specific units that will go shortly after Christmas.

Marine Forces Reserve has announced the final list of Reserve units slated to go to Iraq beginning in March. A detachment from 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company and some Marine aviation logistics squadrons that had been slated to go in June will now be deploying for Iraq in early spring, Reserve officials said.

Gen. Conway’s ‘news’

Corps officials have been generally mum on details of the Iraqi troop rotation plan. But in a colorful letter written Dec. 11, Conway attempted to explain how Marines would be affected by the deployments, though he stopped short of providing a full listing of units.

“The good news is: Everybody loves Marines. The bad news is: Everybody loves Marines,” Conway wrote.

Corps officials are trying to manage Iraqi deployments to minimize the impacts on individual Marines. Unlike the Army, for example, which will deploy soldiers for 12 months at a time, the Corps will send most Marines to Iraq for seven months. And Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee has established “redlines” governing deployments, stating that Marines will be at home for at least as long as they previously were deployed.

That policy also stipulates that reservists who previously have been called to active duty and released will not be “remobilized.”

Under normal circumstances, four battalions participate in the UDP at any one time.

Elements of both Okinawa-bound battalions still are arriving in Japan and should all be there by the end of the month, according to a spokesman for 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton.

Although the Corps expects to redirect three-quarters of its forces normally deployed under the Unit Deployment Program to Iraq — about 3,000 Marines total — the UDP represents only about a third of the overall Marine presence in Okinawa.

In addition to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is permanently based there, a number of other III MEF units are assigned there. Should a mission present itself in the Pacific Command theater, McSweeney said the Corps would have it covered.

“There will be forces that remain in Okinawa, and the Marine Corps is capable of responding to any contingencies that arise,” he said.




12-30-03, 10:30 AM
Three Marine units likely to bypass Japan, head to Iraq

By Sandra Jontz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Tuesday, December 30, 2003

ARLINGTON, Va. — Three of four Marine Corps battalions slated to deploy to Okinawa, Japan, as part of the Corps’ Unit Deployment Program will likely head to Iraq instead, Corps officials said.

While the Corps’ troop rotation plans for the second phase of Iraq deployments have yet to be signed off by the top Pentagon leaders, the “strong indications” are that three battalions — two active from the West Coast and one Reserve — will be Iraq-bound, heading out between February and April, said Corps spokesman Capt. Dan McSweeney.

The two active-duty battalions — the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif., and the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, from Camp Pendleton, Calif. — already are on Okinawa, having arrived roughly a week ago, McSweeney said.

No details were available Monday on when the approximately 1,600 Marines would leave Okinawa for the Middle East, McSweeney said.

Routinely, four battalions of Marines are on Okinawa at any given time for the UDP, making up 29 percent of Marine forces on Okinawa, McSweeney said.

The infantry UDP exercises give Marines training in areas such as unit maneuvering, ground operations, land navigation and small unit tactic, technique and procedures. And, the forces provide the III Marine Expeditionary Force with a ground combat element to promote regional security and stability in the Pacific theater.

“This doesn’t mean the Marine Corps won’t be able to support any contingencies in the Pacific theater of operation,” McSweeney said. Without getting into specifics, he said the Corps would use “various surges” in other forces and capabilities to address any unforeseen events.

Roughly 25,000 Marines will be heading to Iraq for seven-month deployments as the Pentagon moves into the second phase of rotations. The Marines, a majority of whom will come from bases in California, are slated to replace soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, now operating in and around Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

The tapped reserve battalion — the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines headquartered in Bridgeton, Mo. — first got word in November they would be heading to Okinawa for the six-month UDP. But in mid-December, plans changed and instead the 800 to 900 Marines will deploy to Iraq, said Capt. Jeff Pool, Marine Forces Reserve spokesman in New Orleans.

The 3-24 Marines will be mobilized Jan. 5 on 12-month orders and will spend a few weeks training at Camp Pendleton before deploying with other 1st Marine Division Marines to Iraq, Pool said.

“They are expected to be in country from March to some time in September,” he said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, about 23,000 Reserve Marines have been activated for operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the United States under Operation Noble Eagle, Pool said.

At the peak of mobilizations in mid-May 2003, 21,316 reservists were on active duty — roughly 52 percent of the entire Selected Marine Corps Reserve and the highest percentage of all reserve components serving on active duty, Pool said. Nearly 75 percent of those activated Marines deployed to the Central Command area of operation.