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Stryker force gets third Iraq tour


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POSTED: Friday, October 09, 2009

The Stryker brigade at Schofield Barracks, with nearly 4,300 soldiers, has been alerted that it will return to Iraq for the third time next summer as the military draws down its forces.

Col. Malcolm Frost, commander of the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Warrior Brigade Combat Team, said about “;30 to 40 percent of them”; just returned from Iraq in February after a 15-month rotation.

Next summer, Frost is planning to take along 322 of his eight-wheeled, 19-ton combat vehicles, refitted and re-equipped from previous Iraqi deployments at Fort Lewis, Wash.

The 2nd Brigade is the second Hawaii-based unit preparing for another combat assignment.

Nearly 1,000 Kaneohe Marines assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, will return to Afghanistan before the end of the year for the second time. The battalion has already served three tours in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the last elements of the 3,500-member 3rd Bronco Brigade Combat Team, led by Col. Walter Piatt, will be returning Sunday night after spending a year in the Mosul-Tikrit area.

During the 2008-09 deployment, the 2nd Stryker Brigade was assigned to the Baghdad-Taji area in northern Iraq. Frost said his unit does not know where it will be assigned in 2010, but it knows that it has been designated as an “;advise and assist brigade.”;

The role of the military in Iraq has evolved as the Pentagon continues to draw down its force from a war-fighting to an advisory capacity. Army units there increasingly help local governments rebuild infrastructure and security forces.

Frost said that upward of 75 percent of the soldiers in his Stryker unit have served at least one combat tour in Iraq or Afghanistan. Frost was with the 25th Division's 3rd Bronco Brigade Combat Team in 2007 and did one tour in Afghanistan.

From now until Thanksgiving, Stryker soldiers will be rotated to the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area for two weeks of training. In December the brigade will conduct a major computerized simulation exercise at Schofield Barracks. In February the entire brigade will spend a month at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in Southern California's Mojave Desert.

The 2nd Stryker Brigade was in Iraq in 2005 and 2009. The last deployment was the brigade's first with Stryker combat vehicles, 300 in total. Eleven soldiers were killed during that tour.

One of Frost's units — 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, led by Lt. Col. James Isenhower — is in India for an annual joint exercise, Yudh Abhyas (”;training for war”;). The war games will run for two weeks beginning Monday in Babina, about 275 miles southeast of New Delhi. Babina is the headquarters of the Indian army's 31st Armored Division.

A live-fire exercise will be held Oct. 26 involving soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Brigade and a brigade of 600 to 800 soldiers from the Indian army. About 120 Indian soldiers trained last year with their Schofield Barracks counterparts on Oahu and the Big Island.

Frost said the training for U.S. soldiers is invaluable because “;it is working with another army just like we have to do either in Iraq or Afghanistan.”;