1st Cavalry’s 1st, 2nd brigades again ordered to return to Iraq

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

The Defense Department announced Monday that the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams are expected to deploy to Iraq between January and March 2009. Both brigades have deployed twice since the war in Iraq began.

The announcement also involved two other brigades and two regimental combat teams consisting of approximately 33,000 personnel, according to information from the Defense Department. These units would replace forces already in Iraq and allow the U.S. to maintain 15 combat brigades in the country through 2009 if needed, according to information from the Associated Press.

The other units affected by the announcement are Regimental Combat Team 8, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Regimental Combat Team 6, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; and 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard.

The Pentagon announced May 19 the division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team could deploy to Iraq by this fall "to replace troops scheduled to come home by the year's end." This also will be the third deployment for the brigade.

The three Fort Hood brigades currently are conducting training. The 1st Brigade and 3rd Brigade are scheduled to travel to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., while the 2nd Brigade will travel to the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., later this year.

It was announced in April that active-duty Army units would go back to 12-month rotations after a year of 15-month rotations. It was in April 2007 that tours for active-duty soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were extended by three months.

The extension, which was announced as the 1st Cavalry was about six months into its deployment to Iraq, was enacted to increase troops levels as part of the president's "surge" plan for stabilizing Iraq. Rest and recuperations leave for service members were also increased from 15 to 18 days in July.

The return to 12-month deployments is set to take effect on Aug. 1 of this year. Soldiers deploying before Aug. 1 "will complete their scheduled deployments," according to a letter to soldier and family members from the Department of the Army.

The last of last year's surge brigades is set to leave Iraq by the end of July, according to reports from the American Forces Press Service.

Officials in Iraq, U.S. Central Command and the Pentagon will assess post-surge conditions in Iraq, said Bryan Whitman, Pentagon spokesman, in the press service report. Decisions after that review could affect deployments, he said.

Whitman said Monday's announcements are part of a "planning effort to sustain the current level of operations."

The 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade first deployed to Iraq in March 2004, and under the command of Col. Paul Funk, current III Corps chief of staff, once again deployed to Iraq in October 2006, serving a 15-month deployment.

The 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade Combat Team first deployed to Iraq in January 2004 as the lead element of the 1st Cavalry, according to information from the division.

The brigade returned to Iraq in 2006 under the leadership of Col. Bryan Roberts.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7547; Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp of 1st Cavalry Division public affairs contributed to this story.

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