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Thousands in Germany, Italy are told they will be deploying in mid-2007

Stars and Stripes | January 23, 2007
Mark St.Clair

Some 8,500 soldiers from 43 units in Germany and Italy have received official word that they will be deploying to either Iraq or Afghanistan later this year, U.S. Army Europe officials announced Monday.

Part of the 2007-2009 force rotation announced by the Defense Department in November, all the affected units are preparing for yearlong deployments in support of operations in Iraq or Afghanistan, USAREUR said.

The deployment is not part of the increase of troops announced by President Bush earlier this month.

Larger units, such as the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team — located in Bamberg and Schweinfurt, Germany, and Vicenza, Italy — and the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade — from Ansbach and Katterbach, Germany — will be sending several thousand soldiers each.

The exact dates of the deployment have not been announced, although a farewell ceremony for the 12th CAB is scheduled tentatively for May 16 in Katterbach, according to Maj. Charles Bowery, the brigade's executive officer.

Word on where the units will be stationed when they get to Iraq or Afghanistan also is not available, but “they will be assigned to an area that best supports the combatant commander's objectives,” a USAREUR news release stated.

Other units on the list include parts of the following commands:

21st Theater Support Command.
Headquarters, U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army.
7th Army Reserve Command.
5th Signal Command.
European Regional Medical Command.
266th Finance Command.
This will be the first deployment for the 12th CAB, which was formerly known as 4th Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Bowery said. The unit was renamed in August.

In addition to its headquarters and three of its battalions, the aviation brigade will be in charge of engineer units from Hanau and Vilseck, Germany, as well as National Guard and Reserve units from four states, Bowery said in a telephone interview Monday.

In all, the brigade will be in charge of 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers in Iraq — about 3,000 of them from Germany-based units.

“Currently we're in the pre-deployment training process,” Bowery said of his unit's readiness level. “Our brigade headquarters as well as subordinate battalion headquarters recently returned from a training simulation exercise at Fort Rucker (Ala.)”

Bowery said that parts of the aviation brigade and the 173rd Airborne are training in Grafenwöhr, Germany, now.

Maj. Scott Hines, executive officer of the 173rd's 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, said all the soldiers in the brigade have received the news — and so have their families.

“We've known for some time that we were going to deploy,” he said in a brief phone interview from Grafenwöhr. “We just didn't know when, and we still don't know really. Just early summer.”

Hines said the brigade had already planned the greater part of the next month to train in Germany. That training is needed because the brigade faced about a 60 percent turnover after returning from a yearlong stint in Afghanistan.

The 12th also has a certification exercise scheduled for April to make sure it's fully prepared for the deployment, Bowery said. After the certification is complete, he said, all brigade members will be given time to spend with friends and families in April and May.

Family support elements also are preparing and are aware of the important role they'll play while the unit is downrange, Bowery said.

“We have a great family support structure. They're making sure that we're ready to deploy. They'll take care of our soldiers while they're gone, and take care of the families while we're away,” he said.

Among the units leaving, the 3rd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (Assault) in Katterbach, has been home for the least amount of time, having returned from Afghanistan in February 2006, Bowery said.


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