Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo
In this file photo, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, provides the opening comments for a meeting in Tikrit, Iraq, January 8. The Department of Defense decided June 25, that the Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, a 700-plus Soldier unit that comprises the headquarters of U.S. Division-North, is being extended in northern Iraq for 30 days.

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq -- The Department of Defense decided June 25, that the Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, a 700-plus Soldier unit that comprises the headquarters of U.S. Division-North, is being extended in northern Iraq for 30 days.

The date for the 3rd ID Headquarters transfer of authority - the term used to describe one headquarters replacing another - will now be in early November 2010 when the 4th Infantry Division of Fort Carson, Colo., arrives. The previous date was expected to be the first week of October.

"We transferred authority on November 3 (2009), and we will now transfer authority on the third or fourth of November (2010)," said Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, commander of 3rd ID and Task Force Marne.

The decision to extend TF Marne's time in Iraq was made after careful consideration by senior leaders in Iraq and in the United States. Weighing all of the available options to meet the requirement to have a division headquarters presence throughout the drawdown and until the mission ends in Iraq in Dec. 2011; it was decided to extend the current U.S. Division-North headquarters by one month.

"It makes sense," Cucolo said. "If the mission says 'be prepared to go all the way to December 2011 with a division headquarters,' the choices were either give 3rd ID headquarters 12 months and leave 4th ID with the possibility of 14 (months), or give each division headquarters 13 months. Sure, we'd all like to be heading home at the 12-month mark, but we would not want to pull out of here if it had the potential to put our brothers and sisters in 4th ID at a disadvantage. This is the right thing to do, and I'm really glad our leadership made the decision."

This extension comes as U.S. Forces in Iraq are reducing personnel to 50,000 by Sept. 1 to meet the president's force cap mandate. Task Force Marne assumed responsibility for US Division-North with a strength of about 21,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. The task force is currently reducing its size to about 9,400 personnel as part of the force reduction ongoing this summer. This 30-day extension has absolutely no impact on the force cap numbers.

"We are all thankful for the unwavering support of the Coastal Georgia community through the uncertainty of our recent deployments; they've been fantastic," Cucolo added. "But it is moments like this when I am most thankful for the incredible resilience of the Marne Division's Army families. They've been through a lot this decade and remain a tough, proud group of Americans whose unconditional love carries us through these deployments. We get our strength and endurance from them."

Page last updated Wed June 30th, 2010 at 18:39