Monday, October 19, 2009

Army Cancels Brigade's Iraq Deployment

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - An Army brigade slated to deploy to Iraq in January was relieved of its deployment orders this weekend without current plans for a new mission, Pentagon and Army officials said here today.

The 10th Mountain Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team was off-ramped by Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, because of the improved security situation there, and not to bolster forces in Afghanistan, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

"This [decision] is based on General Odierno's assessment of the security environment in Iraq," Whitman explained. "It reflects the continuing improvements in the ability of the Iraqi security forces to be able to safeguard their people as well as their institutions."

The 3,500 soldiers who make up the brigade will continue training and honing their skills, awaiting a new mission, which is the normal posture for troops in garrison. Pentagon officials have no plans, as of yet, to deploy the brigade to Afghanistan, Whitman said.

The strategy assessment involving Pentagon and White House officials and commanders in Afghanistan still is ongoing, and no decisions for additional troops have been made, he added. Cancellation of the brigade's deployment was a decision about Iraq, the Iraqi security environment and the Iraqi security forces that was "based on the situation in Iraq, not Afghanistan," Whitman said.

The brigade was intended to replace the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, an Army National Guard unit from Clinton, N.C. The North Carolina Guard unit still is expected to return from its 12-month deployment on time in February, which will bring the number of brigade-size units in Iraq to 10. That statistic is subject to any future decisions that could be made about forces needed in Iraq, Whitman said.

About 117,000 U.S. servicemembers are now in Iraq.