It’s hardly been a secret, but the Department of Defense made it official this morning: I Corps, the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, are all in the next rotation for Iraq.
I don’t have anything official in terms of a timeline, but I am told the Corps headquarters will go early in the year — late winter, early spring — and that the two Stryker brigades will deploy in the summer or early fall. Not sure which one goes first.
The Corps’ deployment is historic — its first since Korea. Each of the Army’s three other standing Corps — III, V and XVIII — have done two turns each. The Corps headquarters runs the day-to-day operations across the country, with the commanding general effectively the No. 2 to the Multi-National Force-Iraq commander (formerly Gen. David Petraeus, now Gen. Ray Odierno).
3rd Brigade will be making its third Iraq deployment. And this announcement, for now at least, would appear to end speculation that the brigade might be sent to Afghanistan instead.
And 5th Brigade, as we reported Sunday, is the last of the Army’s seven Stryker brigades and will be making its first trip. It still has to conduct is final brigade certification exercise early next year at Fort Irwin, Calif., but its work at Fort Lewis is nearly done.
UPDATE: A few other thoughts, following my colleague Scott’s fine report from the Fort Lewis news conference.
After a late summer, fall and winter with Standing Room Only at Fort Lewis, these deployments will have the effect of emptying the place out again to levels not seen since the 3rd and 4th Brigades were gone at the same time in 2007.
Also, with I Corps, 3rd Brigade, 5th Brigade and the Washington National Guard’s 81st Brigade Combat Team back in the box, there will be some 13,000 or so Washington-based soldiers downrange. (The 81st is casing its colors Wednesday at Fort McCoy, Wis., and expects to be in Kuwait by the end of October. Then it’ll be onward into Iraq.)
Iraq will once again be a very local story here.
Finally, one last word on 3rd Brigade and Afghanistan: Perhaps it’s premature to end the speculation. Bear in mind that as recently as two weeks ago, the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division was headed to Iraq. Now they’re due in Afghanistan in January.