800 more soldiers will serve in Iraq
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
The Army announced yesterday that about 800 soldiers from the headquarters of the 25th Infantry Division will deploy to Iraq this year, adding to a large Schofield Barracks involvement in what could be the last chapter for the U.S. in the seven-year-old war.
Maj. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux will be the latest Schofield commander to take the "Tropic Lightning" flag to Iraq. The headquarters is expected to operate out of Baghdad.
Champoux, who took command of the 25th Infantry Division in February, said the mission will be to help Iraqi forces continue to build capability.
"It's a new phase of the operation," Champoux said yesterday. "The Iraqis are clearly in the lead."
The headquarters will provide command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in support of Iraqi security operations, officials said.
In late June, a deployment ceremony is scheduled to be held for 4,300 Schofield soldiers with the Stryker Brigade who are expected to see duty in northern Iraq.
Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told Fox News on April 18 that the American force in the country stood at about 95,000 troops.
He said plans were on track to reduce the U.S. presence to 50,000 in August.
The U.S. expects to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. "Randy" Mixon, the commander of the U.S. Army for the Pacific, yesterday said the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Schofield has been assigned additional majors, lieutenant colonels and senior non-commissioned officers to help with Iraqi forces training.
Stryker Brigade officials previously said the unit would be part of a series of "advise and assist" brigades in Iraq.
Soldiers with the unit returned from Iraq in February and March of 2009 from 15 months in northern Baghdad, Taji, Tarmiyah and Abu Ghraib. The brigade has about 330 of the 19-ton Stryker armored vehicles.
In the fall of 2008, Maj. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., then the commander of the 25th Division, deployed with about 4,500 Schofield Barracks soldiers from the division headquarters and 3rd Brigade to northern Iraq.
In August of 2009, meanwhile, approximately 2,400 soldiers with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade left on a yearlong mission and are still deployed to northern Iraq.