By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Fort Hood Herald
Though U.S. military operations are winding down in Iraq, Fort Hood units continue to play an important role in the country's transition by advising and assisting Iraqi forces.
The year started with III Corps' colors-casing ceremony in February. There was nothing routine about the corps' upcoming mission, Brig. Gen. Joseph P. DiSalvo said Feb. 18 before almost 200 III Corps soldiers departed for Iraq.
DiSalvo is the corps' chief of staff and departed soon after with Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, III Corps commander. The corps deployed and aligned under U.S. Forces-Iraq and Cone assumed the title of U.S. Forces-Iraq's deputy commander for operations.
Cone and Command Sgt. Arthur Coleman uncased the corps' colors in mid-March, and was the first corps-level unit to begin its tour as a component of U.S. Forces-Iraq, according to information from the Army. Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.'s I Corps merged Multinational Corps-Iraq to form U.S. Forces-Iraq in January.
Major objectives for the corps included transitioning U.S. forces from a mission of combat operations to a mission of stability operations and responsibly reducing the combat force from 11 brigades down to six advise-and-assist brigades, Cone said to a group of community members in mid-February.
The goal is to "turn the lights off in Iraq" by the time III Corps returns to Fort Hood in February, DiSalvo said last year, adding he was positive that can be done. The deployment is III Corps' third to Iraq.
The corps deployed with more soldiers than it was authorized, and as troop numbers in Iraq reduced, so did the need for some of the specialty jobs that the corps overmanned.
Some III Corps soldiers returned to Fort Hood this summer, not long before Operation Iraqi Freedom's Sept. 1 transition to Operation New Dawn. The change marked the official transfer to stability operations, Cone said in June. This wasn't a new mission as stability operations were already under way in a vast majority of Iraq, he added.
The corps deployed to Iraq, joining other Fort Hood units like the 13th Sustainment Command's headquarters and its 15th Sustainment Brigade. The support soldiers led drawdown efforts across the country, which included getting out equipment and other supplies that accumulated in seven years.
It was announced in May that the 15th Sustainment would return to Fort Hood several months ahead of schedule, and the its first soldiers arrived later that month. The brigade, then led by Col. Larry Phelps, began a re-location to Fort Bliss before it even returned to Fort Hood and completed that transition in November.
The 13th Sustainment, led by Brig. Gen. Paul Wentz, returned to Fort Hood in July, completing a yearlong deployment. Wentz handed over command of the 13th to Col. (promotable) Terence J. Hildner in August.
As the support soldiers returned to Fort Hood, the 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Brigade and the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment prepared to deploy to Iraq in advise-and-assist roles. The 4th, led by Col. Brian Winski, was re-named from a brigade combat team to an advise and assist brigade and leaders cased their colors in September.
The brigade deployed with a group of specialized stability transition teams to lead its mission there.
The regiment, led by Col. Reginald Allen, cased its colors in mid-August, and its troopers were in Iraq as operations there officially transformed.
This is the regiment's fourth deployment to Iraq. The troopers were among the Army's first into Iraq in April 2003, and will be some of the last leaving in 2011, Allen said this summer. They have the honor of closing out the mission there, he added.
The 1st Cavalry's 3rd Brigade received orders in late October for Iraq, and are set to depart at the end of January. Like the 4th Brigade, the 3rd will transform from a brigade combat team to an advise and assist brigade with three primary missions: "advise, assist, train and equip Iraqi security forces; conduct partnered counter-terrorism operations; and support and protect civilian and military efforts focused on developing Iraqi civil and institutional capacity," according to Defense Department.
Other 1st Cavalry brigades are currently training for deployments to Iraq, though no official orders have been announced.