WASHINGTON -- Troop levels will stay the same for the next rotations of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, Defense Department officials said today.
Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, has requested 138,000 troops in support of 17 brigades for Iraqi Freedom 3. He also requested about 20,000 American soldiers for Afghanistan in support of three brigades for Enduring Freedom 6.
The military has expanded the window for troop rotations into and out of the country. In fact, the so-called OIF-3 rotation really has already started. Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, and Marines are beginning to flow into the region to relieve the Army's 1st Armored Division and 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. Elements of those units were extended in country following an upsurge in violence in the so-called "Baathist Triangle" and from illegal militias in the southern part of Iraq.
The active duty and reserve units have been given a long lead time for the deployment. Army officials said the longer the lead time, the better prepared the units. Also, it allows soldiers in the reserve components to prepare their families and their employers for their absence.
"We've learned lessons from the past, said an Army spokeswoman. "We're applying them now."
The two big units in OIF-3 are the 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, Ga., and the 42nd Infantry Division, of the New York National Guard. The 3rd Division will be making its second trip to Iraq. The unit was on point in March and April 2003 and took Baghdad. The 3rd Infantry Division headquarters will command two brigades of the division and the 256th Infantry Brigade of the Louisiana National Guard. The division will relieve the 1st Cavalry Division in and around Baghdad.
The other two maneuver brigades of the 3rd will come under command of the 42nd Infantry Division. Also with the 42nd will be the 116th Cavalry Brigade out of Boise, Idaho. The 42nd will relieve the 1st Infantry Division.
The 42nd Infantry will begin flowing into Iraq in December. The 3rd Infantry will begin flowing into the country in January.
The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, from Fort Carson, Colo., also will return to Iraq, beginning in February. The 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, from Camp Hovey, South Korea, will begin flowing into Iraq next month.
The "Black Horse Cav" - the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment - will stop serving as the opposing-force training unit at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., and will join with the 155th Armored Brigade of the Mississippi Guard. They will begin entering Iraq in January.
The 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, at Fort Lewis, Wash. -- the Army's second Stryker brigade -- will relieve the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, in Mosul beginning in September.
The Tennessee Guard's 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment will roll into Iraq beginning in November. The 56th Infantry Brigade, of the Texas Guard, and the 29th Infantry Brigade, of the Hawaii National Guard, will begin providing theater security in February.
Marine units will begin their rotation in March.
In Afghanistan, the Southern European Task Force based in Vicenza, Italy, will take command from the 25th Infantry Division in March. The 173rd Airborne Brigade and elements of the 18th Airborne Corps will be part of the command. The 76th Infantry Brigade, of the Indiana National Guard, will take over responsibility for training the Afghan National Army at the same time.