Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, along with coaltion troops, listen to a talk by Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey. About 25,000 soldiers are getting orders to deploy there in coming months, the Defense Department has announced. (Army)
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Nearly 25,000 troops will board planes for a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan starting soon after New Year's, the Defense Department has announced.
About 18,000 soldiers in five infantry brigade combat teams as well as two combat aviation brigades and a headquarters element will deploy to Afghanistan as part of the regular troop rotations.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed the deployment orders a day after President Obama said he will start bringing troops home from Afghanistan in July. In the same breath, he said the U.S. will not finish transitioning military forces out of Afghanistan until 2014. The U.S. has 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, 67,000 of them soldiers.
Soldiers will start deploying in early 2011 with departures continuing through the fall of next year. There, these soldiers will continue to root out Taliban influence from Afghanistan and train up Afghan military forces to take over defense of the country.
They units are:
• I Corps Headquarters, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
• 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.
• 82nd Airborne Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
• 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox, Ky.
• 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
• 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska
• 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.
• 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti and the I Corps Headquarters element will take over day-to-day operations in Afghanistan at head of International Security Assistance Force Joint Command. Scaparrotti, who took command of I Corps in October after leading the 82nd Airborne Division, will relieve Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, dual-hatted as the head of ISAF Joint Command and deputy commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan.
Rodriguez left his job as Defense Secretary Robert Gates' chief of staff before taking over ISAF Joint Command in May 2009 at the same time since-fired Gen. Stanley McChrystal took command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The V Corps Headquarters has been deployed to Afghanistan since October 2009. For more than a year, V Corps has shuttled augmented elements in and out of headquarters to ensure soldiers serve no more than 12-month tours, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Patterson said.
The I Corps' Headquarters element returned from a deployment to Iraq in March 2010 where it commanded Multi-National Corps-Iraq. Due to dwell time requirements, the I Corps will not leave for Afghanistan until at least April 2011, Patterson said. This will be I Corps' Headquarters first deployment to Afghanistan.
In a sign the Army is continuing to provide additional dwell time to its soldiers, four of the five infantry brigade combat teams have been home from a deployment for more than a year. Army Chief of Staff George Casey said in June he wants to reduce combat zone deployments to nine months and grow dwell time to three years.
"We're actively studying right now the timing and the possibilities of going to nine-month deployments as a standard," Casey told Army Times in June.
The soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, got home from Iraq in July 2009. They will also most likely be the first to leave out of this group. The 3rd BCT is expected to relieve the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, in January 2011.
But the Army still has a ways to go, officials at U.S. Forces Command said. Many factors including restationing and activations play a part in deciding the amount of dwell soldiers receive. As demand for soldiers drops in Iraq and the transition out of Afghanistan begins in July, Army officials said dwell time will lengthen.
Extended dwell time is a luxury the 159th and 82nd Combat Aviation Brigades have not enjoyed as the Army's combat aviation brigades remain in high demand in Afghanistan. The 159th and 82nd will join the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, which announced in November it will also deploy to Afghanistan in spring 2011.
The 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, which returned from a deployment to Khandahar, Afghanistan, in March, will relieve the 10th Mountain Combat Aviation Brigade next fall. The 159th Combat Aviation Brigade will relieve its 101st counterparts.
The announced deployments signal an upcoming homecoming at Fort Campbell, where three infantry brigade combat teams and one combat aviation brigade will be returning over the course of next year. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd BCTs of the 101st will return in January, March and April respectively in 2011.
The 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment, will return home in June 2011 to be replaced by the 1st Infantry BCT, 25th Infantry Division.