Son of REFORGER Goes to Iraq

Strategy Page has an excellent piece on the big troop rotation nearing completion in Iraq.

The 18th Airborne Corps headquarters, the 42nd Infantry Division (a National Guard outfit), the 3rd Infantry Division and the 2nd Marine MEU (Division) have replaced the 3rd Corps headquarters, the 1st Infantry Division, the 1st Cavalry Division and the 1st Marine MEU (Division). American troops strength will go down to 138,000 by March. The increased traffic from over 250,000 troops moving in and out over the last few months has caused an increase in traffic accidents, although combat injuries have been declining since the battle of Fallujah last November. Most of the heavy equipment belonging to units remains in Iraq, to ease up the logistics burden. The troops either return to the equipment they left behind when they came over, or are issued new equipment and weapons, to the replace those being left behind, when they get home.

I had wondered about the increase in traffic deaths of late. This seems to be a perfectly reasonable explanation.

The lessened traffic load of not swapping out heavy equipment when you swap out troops makes a great deal of sense, but it also probably leaves the new troops holding their noses when they reach the sandbox. I heard that the soldiers in the second Stryker Brigade wanted to know when the last time the first Stryker Brigade’s vehicles, which were left for the second brigade, had been washed. They apparently hadn’t been washed for a year.

Then the first brigade went back to Fort Lewis and took over the Strykers that the second brigade had been keeping squeaky-clean all along.

For what it’s worth, when the third Stryker Brigade deploys this fall, it will be taking its own vehicles with it.

The Strategy Page article ends with

Depending on what sort of treaties are negotiated with the new Iraqi government, some pre-positioned equipment for American combat units may stay in Iraq. Iran is still seen as a threat to Iraq, and just the presence of pre-positioned American equipment is often enough to give frisky neighbors pause. Kuwait has been the host to several combat brigades worth of American equipment for over a decade. Again, that provides more practical experience about maintaining the stuff in a desert environment. There are also lots of Kuwaitis who have experience maintaining the gear.

The article noted that this practice is similar to the REFORGER (REturn of FORces to GERmany) program of the 1980s. I think we’ll have a significant number of troops and airmen stationed in Iraq for years (or decades) to come, but a REturn of FORces to the Middle East program, with a significant amount of pre-placed heavy equipment, wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.


  1. Leaving eqipment makes a lot of sense logistically, but is contrary to the concept of a unit being responsible for its own equipment (at least that was the way it was way back when I was in). The old T,O & E. We had to hide spare vehicles we’d accumulated during IG inspections, or they would be taken away from us. We did this by putting them on the road that day. Maybe we need special units which just own the equipment, and insure units to which it is assigned take care of it. These special units would have some of their people in theatre as long as their equipment was there. A unit for each type of vehicle: Humvees, Strykers, etc. Personally, I believe a soldier needs to sleep with his firearm. When I was in, they were so concerned about securing them that we rarely got to handle them, much less fire them. They stayed locked in the racks most of the time.

  2. I remember it that same was that ACE does. During our deployment to Iraq everything that we had on base went with us and pretty much stayed with us. In the bigger scope of the invasion all gear from the various units of 6th Engineer Support Battalion across the country were lumped together and dispursed per our mission to the various platoons that were created. The reserves is a little bit different than active units as our staffing is typically lower than most. To accomplish something big like kicking Saddam’s ass we need to join together with the other units that make up our battalion and then we were segregated to ensure adequate MOS coverage. In this case we joined together to create the largest reserve battalion ever stood up in the USMC. Back to the equipment issue. I can’t say I would like the idea of ‘common’ gear for use by all through their rotations. If it’s my home unit’s I’m going to make sure that sucker is clean, has the best parts and is ready to go whenever. Someone elses, well, how long am I going to be there anyway. It would end up like most of the gear we had to make due with when we would go somewhere for two weeks. Pilfered and beat to hell. Then again, maybe this outpost in the desert continues to get the best equipment due to the potential for action over there. It gets old and some stateside unit gets it for training. Likely story but valid I think.

  3. Yep, Sarge, it’s the same mentality most have when driving a rental car vs. our own new cars. Just keep the damage to ‘normal wear and tear’ and if you have a fender bender, that’s why you purchased the insurance. Yeah, we’re beating up equipment like crazy over there, not to mention trying to build tanks out of Humvees and trucks using troops never trained to weld. The photos I’ve seen are not pretty. The welded-up-armored units rattle like my grandpa’s old farm pickup, they say. And, adding all that weight to a Humvee which barely has enough power in the first place overloads engines and trannies. We should buy a vehicle designed from the ground up for armored patrols, like the Dingo (German vehicle built near New Orleans). The good news is that even the Reserve and NG units aren’t going to want many of those welded-up vehicles when they come back, so I expect to be able to buy a beat-up Humvee for a few grand, and just drive it around Hart Co., GA on weekends, looking like I just drove back to base from the front. ;-) Maybe I’ll buy a non-operative .50 BMG M2 Machine Gun and mount it. That will probably get me pulled over by every cop that sees me, until they recognize it and say ‘Forget it. He’s harmless. Finish your doughnut.’ ;-) On a more serious note, we’re going to spend BILLIONS more bringing all the vehicles up to snuff after the war. But, heh, it’s good for the military-industrial complex and indirectly for the economy.