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Deployment accelerated

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POSTED: March 6, 2007 5:09 a.m.
The deployment that was thought to be four months away is now six weeks away, and it may last longer for the entire division, the 3rd Infantry Division commander told reporters Friday afternoon.  
“We thought a June/July timeline for the division headquarters but now we have to be there by March 25,” Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said during a media luncheon at Club Stewart. His announcement came shortly before the Department of Defense released word that the headquarters previously scheduled to deploy for Operation Iraqi Freedom in June 2007, as announced in November, would now be accelerated by a little over three months.
By May more than 12,500 Marne soldiers will be deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Troops and families are being told to plan on an 18-month deployment instead of the year announced earlier.
“I’d rather have them prepare for 18 months and it be cut short than tell them 12 months and it be extended,” the commander said.
Lynch will deploy with the headquarters next month on his 4th tour in Iraq.
The division headquarters consisting of more than 1,000 soldiers is in the field this week, preparing to deploy next month. Lynch said commanders on the ground in Iraq have requested more troops and the division will accelerate its plans accordingly.
“It is imperative that we secure Baghdad, and increasing troops is part of doing that,” Lynch said.
While congressional leaders are voicing disagreement with Pres. Bush’s plans to send more than 20,000 troops, military leaders agree with the administration, Lynch said.  
“It’s no longer true that we will be in the northern portion of Iraq. We’ll now be in the south and south eastern area of Baghdad,” he said.
While the deployment comes three months earlier than planned, Lynch said training is on track.
“We’re now in a detailed, six-week program,” he said.
There will be a lot of moving parts on, as training events are ongoing for almost every brigade combat team on the installation.
“As Baghdad goes, so goes Iraq,” the commander said. “Our nation needs us. This is a significant change from what we believed.”
The headquarters will provide essential command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in support of security operations in and around Baghdad.
Lynch said the environment in Iraq is more violent now than ever before.
“There are extremists in our area of operation, and those extremists are Shiite extremists and Sunni extremists,” he said. “We will be taking action against all these extremists.”
Securing Baghdad is the military’s top priority. Insurgents want to use Iraq as launching pad and an outpost for terrorism and are escalating violence to do so, he said.
“We believe some of the technology for IEDs is coming from outside,” the general said. “As we study influences in Iraq we see outside influence from Iran and Syria. We need to shut down the ‘rat lines’ where money and technology is being funneled into Iraq.”
Explosions last week in Baghdad killed at least 59 people. The United Nations has said the sectarian violence last year left 34,452 civilians dead. In Baghdad alone, 38,766 people have been driven from their homes by the daily sectarian killing, the United Nations reports.
The division headquarters and 3rd and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams have been affected by the president’s January announcement to increase troop levels in Iraq. The units have been bumped up three months. The bulk of the 1st Brigade Combat Team has been in Iraq since the end of January. The 3rd BCT must be in Iraq by mid-March.  The 2nd BCT must be on the ground in mid-May. Lynch said the 4th BCT is currently working on deploying in late September. But the 4th, Aviation and Sustainment brigades could deploy as early as June, Lynch said.
 

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