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Pentagon Outlines Troop Rotation Plan for Iraq

Times Staff Writer

The Pentagon is planning for the “worst-case” scenario in Iraq over the next year, preparing to send in more armored units to battle an unrelenting insurgency, a senior Army official told Congress on Wednesday.

Defense officials laid out a detailed roadmap of how they plan to deploy troops over the next year, replacing 140,000 soldiers and Marines now in Iraq with 135,000 troops being sent from bases in the U.S. and Europe in a third rotation of forces starting in November and lasting four months.

The proportion of reservists in Iraq will increase -- from 39% to 42% of U.S. forces -- as commanders try to bolster critical specialties where they are short and where civilian contractors can no longer be used because of the dangers. Other gaps will be plugged with the call-up of more than 5,600 recent military retirees.

Meanwhile, commanders are looking for ways to fill thousands of openings in military intelligence operations. Overall, of troops going to Iraq beginning this fall, a majority -- 55% -- will be serving a second time.

Taken together, the plans presented to members of the House Armed Services Committee portrayed a military scrambling to meet future troop needs for the conflict in Iraq and confronting the recurring criticism that they are trying to do too much with too little.

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Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army’s new deputy chief of staff, and other defense officials testified that the Army did not want or need a permanent troop increase, saying they could make do with the soldiers they have.

Lawmakers continued to question that assessment, with Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the committee’s ranking Democrat, calling the Pentagon’s announcement last week that it is calling up 5,600 members of the Individual Ready Reserve of military retirees a sign that the Pentagon is “wearing our people out.” The troops, Skelton said, “are not pawns on a chessboard. They are our treasure.”

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) called the number of reservists fighting in Iraq “just too high,” saying employers of called-up reservists had complained to members of Congress.

But Pentagon officials defended the use of the ready reserve, a pool of roughly 118,000 former soldiers who are not members of a specific reserve unit and do not train regularly, yet who have unexpired obligations to complete their military service. Ready reserve soldiers have not been called up in significant numbers since 1990, amid preparations for the Persian Gulf War.

“The fact that its use is rare does not mean that it is inappropriate,” David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, told the committee.

Chu said that of the 5,674 Individual Ready Reserve members mobilized to deploy to Iraq, he expected about 4,000 would go. He said the Pentagon opted to mobilize more troops than it needs because of the likelihood that some of the former service personnel, who had not been undergoing training since they left the service, would not be prepared for combat.

The military officials acknowledged that the Army had to scramble to “backfill” in some areas where it is short of qualified people.

“Our entire force,” Cody testified, “is doing missions other than what we designed them for.”

The most acute shortages, he said, are in military intelligence units, where Army planners calculate they are short 9,000 specialists to man the Army’s new Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition units, as well as its new unmanned aerial vehicles.

“We’re looking for some relief there,” Cody said.

The increasing dangers of being in Iraq have also made it more difficult for Army planners to hire contract workers to drive trucks and repair vehicles, Cody said, forcing the Army to reach deeper into the pool of reservists and individual ready reservists.

He said the planned troop rotation was a “worst-case plan” that required more work from combat service support troops, such as heavy-equipment drivers and engineering units.

“We had to keep more engineer units over there because of the roads as well as some of the bridges, and we had to keep more truck drivers over there because the level of violence was such you couldn’t get the civilian contractors to do some of that stuff,” Cody said.

That, “quite frankly, is what drove us to have to go back to more transportation units ... that we had not planned on; more engineer units the second time that we hadn’t planned on” in the past several months, Cody said.

With the insurgency making duty in Iraq more dangerous for U.S. troops, Pentagon planners have chosen to outfit the force rotating into the conflict with 200 additional tanks, more than 6,000 Humvees specially equipped with armor plating, and dozens more Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

“The divisions going in will be more lethal,” Cody said.

The 3rd Infantry Division, for example, which fought to take Baghdad and is slated to begin returning to Iraq in November, will be outfitted this time with 48 Apache helicopters, up from 18 the first time around, along with 38 Black Hawk and 12 Chinook helicopters.

Also slated to join the fight in Iraq is the 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade; two Marine expeditionary units; a Marine expeditionary force; the Army’s 1st Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division, outfitted with new Stryker wheeled vehicles; the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment; and several National Guard combat brigades, including the 42nd Infantry Division from New York, the 155th Armored Brigade from Mississippi and the 29th Brigade from Hawaii.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Troop rotation

Starting in November, 135,000 troops will be sent to Iraq from bases in the United States and Europe, replacing 140,000 soldiers and Marines in Iraq. Here’s a look at when and where the troops will be deployed:

*--* Current deployment Replacement Transition date 1 Stryker Brigade (2nd ID) Stryker Brigade (25th ID) November 2 1st Infantry Division 42nd Infantry Division December 3 Marine Expeditionary Marine Expeditionary March Force (1st ID) Force (2nd ID) 4 1st Calvary Division 3rd Infantry Division November 5 1st Armored Division 10th Mountain Division, July 2nd Brigade July

*--*

*--* Other (area of Replacement Transition date deployment not determined) 2nd Light 11th Marine January Calvary Expeditionary Unit Regiment 24th Marine January Expeditionary Unit 155th Armored February Brigade 81st Brigade 29th Brigade March 3rd Armored Cavalry March Regiment

*--*

ID: Infantry Division

Source: Department of Defense


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