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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 16, 2004

600 more troops enter Kirkuk

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

A second Schofield Barracks infantry battalion has been moved to Kirkuk Air Base in northern Iraq — substantially increasing the number of U.S. combat soldiers in the oil-producing city.

More than 600 soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment Golden Dragons will have responsibility for a western portion of Kirkuk as the June 30 transfer of sovereignty nears.

The 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Gimlets have patrolled the streets of Kirkuk, Iraq's fourth-largest city with nearly 1 million people, since early February.

The U.N. Security Council's endorsement of the handover does not include the guarantee of self-rule for Kurds in and around Kirkuk, increasing the possibility of a fracture along ethnic lines.

Maj. Rick Heyward, operations officer for Task Force 1-14, said in a Schofield publication that the greater troop presence will help with security as the turnover approaches.

"We realize the bottom line here is to reduce the amount of anti-Iraqi, anti-coalition activity," Heyward said. "Daily presence in a form of dismounted patrols, leadership engagement and local populace engagement is critical for success."

The move marks the third major shift in Iraq for 1-14 soldiers, who have dubbed their travels the "Golden Dragons Iraqi Tour — 2004."

The infantry battalion, one of three from Schofield Barracks in Iraq, initially was based in Tuz, about 60 miles south of Kirkuk.

Around the end of March, 1-14 was moved on short notice west of Mosul in northwestern Iraq to assist the Stryker Brigade out of Fort Lewis, Wash.

On April 8, and in another testament to its "light infantry" capability, 1-14 packed up again and deployed to Najaf south of Baghdad, where it took on fighters with Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army.

The third Schofield infantry battalion in Iraq, the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Wolfhounds, remains in the Al Huwijah area, about 40 miles southwest of Kirkuk.

In Kirkuk, Staff Sgt. Todd Nunes, 29, was killed in a roadside bomb and small-arms attack on May 2. Ten other Company A, 1-21 soldiers were injured. Schofield soldiers say the city has been relatively quiet since then.

Approximately 4,000 25th Infantry Division (Light) soldiers are deployed to Iraq, and another 5,500 are in Afghanistan.

An additional 100 Schofield soldiers recently deployed to Afghanistan. The division artillery headquarters will oversee a brigade-sized element that will conduct border operations.

A mixed-force infantry will be under the unit's control, including the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Wolfhounds from Schofield — now at Orgun-E and Shkin near the Pakistan border — as well as a Marine battalion and a National Guard battalion.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5459.