honoluluadvertiser.com

Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 6, 2006

Schofield chief has key role in northern Iraq

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon

spacer spacer

The commander of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) will be in charge of military operations in northern Iraq next summer, a region that includes Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit and restive Mosul, but does not include Baghdad.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon yesterday told Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i members he'll be in charge of four to five brigades, one of which will be the 3rd Brigade from Hawai'i.

A brigade has about 3,500 soldiers. The remaining brigades will be drawn from throughout the Army.

"Under current plans, which I suspect will change ... I will be responsible for the entire northern portion of Iraq and the operations that go on in those areas a very large piece of land," Mixon said.

Approximately 7,000 Hawai'i soldiers with the 3rd Brigade, division headquarters and aviation brigade are expected to deploy in August for a year in the second major deployment to Iraq for the "Tropic Lightning" division since 2004.

Schofield officials are not revealing where in that region Hawai'i troops will be operating.

Mixon's assignment is just the latest high-profile command for the 25th Division. Mixon's predecessor, Maj. Gen. Eric T. Olson, was the No. 2 U.S. commander in Afghanistan and oversaw operations during the country's first presidential election.

Mixon made his comments at the Chamber of Commerce's annual "military partnership conference" at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Top-ranking military leaders from all five services provided updates to the business organization.

The National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division, which operated in what's called Multi-National Division North-Central, transferred its mission to the 101st Airborne Division on Nov. 1.

NEW COMMANDS

The North-Central region includes four provinces north of Baghdad with more than 6 million Iraqis, and includes the city of Kirkuk, the headquarters for Schofield Barracks' 2nd Brigade when it was based there in 2004.

Also announced yesterday were increasing and new commands that are being added to Hawai'i as part of a reorganization of the U.S. military and new emphasis on the Pacific, officials said.

Lt. Gen. John M. Brown III, commander of U.S. Army, Pacific, with headquarters at Fort Shafter, said about 400 additional personnel will be coming to the base for a new operational command post.

The Army has decided to field five theater field headquarters, and Fort Shafter will have one of them. The change is transforming Brown's headquarters from one providing soldiers, but not deploying, to a deployable war-fighting headquarters.

About 1,200 soldiers are based at Fort Shafter. The basing of the 94th Air and Missile Defense Command recently added about 250 personnel to the base, and other commands also are being created.

The 311th Theater Network Command will be commanded by an Army Reserve general officer working full time, and the 81st Theater Sustainment Command already has about 100 soldiers from a former Schofield Barracks unit.

Additionally, Brown said 1,000 intelligence personnel will be working Pacific-wide in an increase over previous capabilities.

'STRATEGIC EPICENTER'

U.S. Pacific Command deputy commander Lt. Gen. Dan Leaf said Hawai'i will be the military "strategic epicenter" of the future, and the region faces both risks and opportunities.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Adm. William Fallon, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, have emphasized the need for open, transparent dialogue with China, he said.

"Not just with the People's Republic of China military, but from them, to avoid falling into conflict when it's not necessary, and certainly not desirable," Leaf said.

Pacific Air Forces deputy commander Maj. Gen. Chip Utterback said Alaska, Hawai'i and Guam form a strategic triangle, with Guam at the tip of that triangle as the most forward operating base on U.S. soil.

"We've got nations acquiring new and more advanced weapons while terrorists and criminals seek to do the same," he said.

There are a lot of "bad actors" out there, including pirates in the Malacca Straits, human traffickers and drug runners. Guam has seen a rotational bomber presence, and will get three Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the skies, he said.

"We can look at those pirates that are out there in the Malacca Straits costing us $16 billion a year," Utterback said.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.