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Redeployment kicking into high gear
Col. Peter Hoffman speaks to the Hinesville Rotary Club on Tuesday. - photo by Photo by Pat Watkins
More than two-thirds of the soldiers deployed from Fort Stewart to Iraq will be home in about two months.
“So before Christmas you will have the vast majority of the division back here at Stewart and Hunter,” Col. Peter Hoffman told the Hinesville Rotary Club on Tuesday.
He discussed the transition of the U.S. mission in Iraq and the 3rd Infantry Division’s role there, which started as one of the main invasion forces in the 2003 war to oust Saddam Hussein’s regime and, through four deployments, has evolved into handing over authority to Iraqi forces and dispersing equipment and facilities now that U.S. forces are leaving the country.
“In January of this year, there were 112,000 soldiers on the ground. At the end of the drawdown that’s happening right now, including the 3rd Infantry Division, there will be 50,000,” Hoffman said.
The lion’s share of the remaining troops are expected to be out of the country by the end of next year.
Even while praising the work of the local troops, the colonel said most people are focusing on their return, after a year’s deployment to the Middle East. And that redeployment is hitting high gear. The Associated Press reported this morning that final elements of the 3rd ID’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team arrived back at Fort Benning in Columbus on Wednesday. Advance parties of Stewart units have being arriving in recent weeks. And the first major homecoming ceremony was early this morning.
Fort Stewart’s Public Affairs Office reports about 150 members of the 2nd HBCT were welcomed home during a ceremony on Cottrell Field at 1 a.m.
Hoffman said that from October into December, the 1st and 2nd BCTs, as well as Headquarters Company are scheduled to be back on Fort Stewart. The 4th BCT, which deployed in July, will start returning next summer.
“It’s significant to point out that by July we’ll have 100 percent of the division back. I think that’s good news for everybody, the soldiers and the community,” he said.
In response to a question after his presentation, the colonel said that at this time the 3rd ID brass expects their troops to not face another deployment for at least a year and a half.
Hoffman said his position as chief of strategic partnerships is not new, but that 3rd ID commander, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, and Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, who has been acting for Cucolo while he is deployed to Iraq, brought the colonel in to emphasize ways the military and civilian communities can work together.
“Our relationship isn’t just joining at that gate. We’re integrated. We’re joined at the hip,” Hoffman said, praising the civilian community for being more supportive of the military than any other community where he has been stationed during his 29-year Army career.
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