By Northwest GuardianOctober 3, 2008
FORT LEWIS, Wash. - America's Corps will make history this spring when it goes to Iraq for its first combat deployment in more than a half-century. The Department of Defense Tuesday announced the deployment of Headquarters, I Corps, to Iraq in 2009. I Corps will replace XVIII Airborne Corps and assume duties as the Multi-National Corps-Iraq.
The DOD also announced the deployment of Fort Lewis' 3rd Brigade and 5th Brigade, both Stryker brigade combat teams. Several other brigade combat teams and a division headquarters from other posts will deploy, as well. The deployments, which involve a total of approximately 26,000 personnel - some 10,000 from Fort Lewis - will begin this winter and continue into summer 2009.
This marks 3rd Brigade's third tour in Iraq and 5th Brigade's first deployment. In November 2003, 3rd Bde. became the first Stryker brigade to deploy for combat operations in support of the global war on terrorism. The brigade deployed to Iraq again in June 2006.
The I Corps commander summed up his response to the deployment announcement.
"We are prepared to deploy as an expeditionary warfighting headquarters to Iraq," said Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commanding general, I Corps.
The corps staff has been undergoing rigorous training to prepare them for this sort of challenge.
"I am very proud of the professionalism of this corps' headquarters," Jacoby said.
While this is the first time the I Corps headquarters as a whole will have deployed to a combat theater for a half-century, elements of the unit deployed in 2004 and 2005 as Task Force Olympia, which provided command and control of coalition forces around the city of Mosul during some of the most difficult fighting of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The corps has also had a central role in preparing subordinate units for combat.
"Over the last four years, this corps has provided exceptional training for brigades and Soldiers going to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as ensuring families are supported and returning Soldiers are cared for," Jacoby said. "Now we turn our attention to this new mission, where we will build on the successes of those who came before us."
This deployment will mark the first time since the Korean War that the I Corps Headquarters has deployed in direct support of combat operations. Since its formation in 1918, I Corps has participated in more campaigns than any other corps in the U.S. Army's history and is the only corps ever to be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
Approximately 900 I Corps Soldiers and civilians will deploy in 2009.
"It is nothing new for many of its Soldiers," Jacoby said. "Nearly half of all of our assigned Soldiers and leaders have deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and/or Enduring Freedom in the last six years. Their experience, discipline and courage are what make this team ready for Iraq and the mission ahead.
"We will complete our final mission-readiness exercise this October and be ready to depart next spring and assume our duties. I am confident that the Soldiers, staff and families of this unit are prepared to face this challenging mission in Iraq and begin a new chapter in our corps' history."
Colonel Harry Tunnell, 5th Bde. commander, said his unit was ready for its first deployment.
"We're prepared to perform full-spectrum operations," Tunnell said. "I think it's a pretty straight-forward mission at this point."
Lt. Col. Adam Rocke of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, speaking for 3rd Bde. commander Col. David Funk, said that the brigade is prepared, as well.
"The country is much more secure," Rocke said of Iraq. "The country is much more stable. Our partnerships are even stronger with the Iraqi Security Forces."
Jacoby said that he was "delighted about the number of Fort Lewis units that will be coming over with us. There's tremendous power in team, as all of you know."