By Spc. Tanya C. PolkOctober 4, 2006
FRIEDBERG, Germany - The Department of Defense has recently directed Soldiers of the 1st Armored Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team to extend their year-long rotation in Iraq. The brigade was slated to return home in January, but a recent decision was made for troops to stay for approximately six more weeks.
"Their presence here is critical," said Col. Sean MacFarland, the 1BCT commander, during an earlier meeting with division's command team.
Since they deployed, the Ready First Brigade has helped decrease the level of violence in an Iraqi region by 25 percent, he said.
In addition to the decline of terrorist activity, the brigade's sacrifice is allowing its recently deployed replacing unit to spend the required 12 months at home station and not miss their second consecutive Christmas.
According to Maj. Gen. Fred D. Robinson Jr., the 1st Armored Division commanding general, the impact of the extension in Iraq is twofold.
"It allows the Ready First to maintain the spectacular momentum they have gained in their assigned region," he said. "But, most importantly is that the extension of the Ready First enables the Army to provide the combatant commander with a force from CONUS that has completed the full dwell time necessary to ensure the Soldiers and their families are fully ready to take the fight."
Understanding that the extension would concern 1BCT's family members and friends, Robinson invited them to Ray Barrack's Old Ironsides Movie Theater Sept. 27 to answer any questions they had.
"I'm glad that they told us months in advance," said Ginger Gunter, spouse to Sgt. James Gunter with the 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment. "I'd rather know now and get prepared."
Although the Ready First families are more than ready for their troops to return home soon, the division is continuing to provide both them and their Soldiers the support they need.
"My main concern is to provide whatever is required to help support the mission," said Robinson. "We will continue to take care of the families back here."
Although the division can't take away the families' sadness, they are helping support them by providing mental health representatives and chaplains in the Friedberg and Giessen communities. The rear detachment team and family readiness groups are also available for help.
"It's really hard to fight a battle and have to keep looking over your shoulder," said MacFarland. "That has not been a problem for our Soldiers out here."
More combat stress teams have been sent to the deployed brigade's main location to console troops if needed.
"We've made it this far and we're strong," said Kim Shoffner, spouse to Maj. Thomas Shoffner, the brigade's training officer in charge.
Shoffner, a member of the brigade's family readiness group, said that she appreciates that 1 BCT is extending to help other military families.
"I'm going to miss my husband dearly," said Gunter, "but, if I was in the other wife's shoes where my husband's not going to be home for 12 months, I wouldn't want that to happen to me as well. I am honored, on my husband's behalf that they are staying to help them.