40,000 troops told to pre­pare for de­ploy­ment over­seas

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Sara A. Carter

The Louisiana Na­tional Guard unit that was called home in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina was or­dered May 19 to pre­pare to re­turn to Iraq for its sec­ond tour.

The mem­bers of the 256th Brigade Com­bat Team were not alone.

Pen­tagon of­fi­cials no­ti­fied about 40,000 ac­tive-duty and Na­tional Guard sol­diers that they will be de­ployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in the up­com­ing months and years. About 25,000 ac­tive-duty troops and 14,000 Na­tional Guard mem­bers will be called to re­place those re­turn­ing from the re­gion. The ma­jor­ity will be go­ing to Iraq.

“All four [Na­tional Guard] brigades will have a se­cu­rity force mis­sion and be as­signed tasks to as­sure free­dom of move­ment and con­ti­nu­ity of op­er­a­tions in the coun­try,” the De­fense De­part­ment said.

The de­ploy­ments will not af­fect Pen­tagon plans to main­tain troop lev­els at 140,000 by the end of July, once with­drawals are com­pleted, of­fi­cials said.

The Pen­tagon’s pol­icy of lim­it­ing Army tours of duty to 12 months, rather than the cur­rent 15 months, will take ef­fect in Au­gust.

Many of the sol­diers who are to be de­ployed later this year re­turned from Iraq late last year, giv­ing them more than a year at home to rest and train, Pen­tagon of­fi­cials said.

The Louisiana brigade, with head­quar­ters in Lafayette, spent a year in Iraq be­fore Ka­t­rina stormed ashore on Aug. 29, 2005. Twenty-two sol­diers from the brigade were killed dur­ing the Iraq de­ploy­ment.

Most of the de­ploy­ments will be­gin in the fall and con­tinue un­til the end of the year.

About 155,000 U.S. troops are cur­rently serv­ing in Iraq and more than 33,000 in Afghanistan.

“This is not some­thing we can eas­ily walk away from,” a se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said. “Th­ese coun­tries need sta­bil­ity be­fore we can pull out; this is some­thing for the long haul.”

In April, Gen. David H. Pe­traeus, the U.S. com­man­der in Iraq and soon to be com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, where he will over­see both Afghanistan and Iraq, told sen­a­tors that anal­y­sis of the po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Iraq was not a “math­e­mat­i­cal ex­er­cise.”

He warned law­mak­ers dur­ing a hear­ing of the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee that “frag­ile and re­versible” se­cu­rity gains from the surge of U.S. troops in Iraq would be shat­tered by a pre­cip­i­tous pull­out. He rec­om­mended a pause of troop re­duc­tions in July fol­lowed by an as- sess­ment pe­riod to de­cide how to pro­ceed.

Most Na­tional Guard brigades head­ing to Iraq will pro­vide se­cu­rity. The Ver­mont Na­tional Guard, con­sist­ing of about 3,100 sol­diers, is sched­uled to go to Afghanistan in 2010 to train gov­ern­ment forces.

Gen. Pe­traeus said the United States will com­plete the with­drawal of the 20,000 troops sent to Iraq in last year’s “surge.” The high­est troop level reached in Iraq in­cluded 20 brigades with more than 170,000 troops.

In April, Gen. Pe­traeus said at a round­table meet­ing with re­porters that he wanted 45 days to eval­u­ate the se­cu­rity con­di­tions in Iraq be­fore de­cid­ing which troops to with­draw.

Un­der the plan an­nounced May 19, the United States could keep 15 brigades in Iraq through the end of the year, as vot­ers elect a new pres­i­dent.

The de­ploy­ment an­nounce­ment in­volves one di­vi­sion head­quar­ters and seven brigade com­bat teams.

Na­tional Guard units from Penn­syl­va­nia, Ten­nessee and Texas also were alerted that they will be de­ployed to Iraq.

Units “are re­ceiv­ing alert or­ders now in or­der to pro­vide them the max­i­mum time to com­plete their prepa­ra­tions,” the De­fense De­part­ment an­nounce­ment said. “It also pro­vides a greater mea­sure of pre­dictabil­ity for fam­ily mem­bers and flex­i­bil­ity for em­ploy­ers to plan for mil­i­tary ser­vice of their em­ploy­ees.”

Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

‘Con­ti­nu­ity of op­er­a­tions’: U.S. and Iraqi sol­diers pa­trol a neigh­bor­hood of Mo­sul on May 19. The Pen­tagon an­nounced de­ploy­ments to start later this year as troops re­turn home and a 12-month limit on Army tours of duty takes ef­fect.

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