3rd Infantry Division Going Back to Iraq

Spread Thin, Army Calling on Same Units

The Army is spread so thin around the globe that when it needs fresh combat troops for Iraq this fall it will have little choice but to call on the same soldiers who led the charge into Baghdad last spring.

The 3rd Infantry Division already has been given an official “warning order” to prepare to return to Iraq as soon as Thanksgiving. When those soldiers flew home from Iraq last summer to their bases in Georgia, few of them could have known they were, in effect, on a roundtrip ticket.

They are not alone in facing back-to-back deployments to Iraq. Some of the same Marines who teamed up with the 3rd Infantry to topple Baghdad are already assembling again in Kuwait, only a matter of months after returning home, and more Marines will go next year.

Other Army units that recently returned to the United States or are preparing to come home this spring, including the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., and the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, are candidates for a quick turnaround.

While this is somewhat overstated–soldiers rotate, so the division won’t be the same in November 2004 as the one that deployed to Iraq in March 2003–this is certainly a strain on the troops and likely to wear on their morale. On the other hand, soldiers–not all of whom were volunteers, unlike the current generation–went off to fight World War Two for the duration, some spending two years in North Africa and Europe and then deploying on to the Pacific. This is the normal posture of a wartime Army; it’s just not something we’ve experienced in over half a century.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.