By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Online edition, Wednesday, October 21, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. — The 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment out of Vilseck, Germany, will deploy to Afghanistan in the spring, the Defense Department announced on Tuesday.
The deployment is part of a series of scheduled rotations that will not increase U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan beyond the roughly 68,000 troops there now, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said on Tuesday.
The regiment is slated to replace the 2nd Infantry Division’s 5th Stryker Brigade now serving in southern Afghanistan.
The 5th Strykers were sent to Kandahar and Zabul province as part of an effort to try to secure the region ahead of Afghanistan’s presidential elections in August.
It’s been a deadly deployment for the Fort Lewis, Wash.-based unit as the U.S. attempts to push the Taliban out of southern Afghanistan: 17 5th Stryker soldiers have died since the unit deployed in July, according to data compiled by icasualties.org.
The Vilseck unit was officially notified about the upcoming deployment last week, according to Maj. Michael Sieber, a unit information officer.
The regiment will be based in Kandahar and fall under Regional Command-South in Afghanistan, Sieber said. However, Whitman noted that the commander on the ground ultimately decides where units end up.
Members of the 2nd Cav had been training in the expectation of a deployment in mid- to late summer, Sieber said.
For the past few months, 2nd Cav soldiers trained in Romania alongside members of a Romanian battalion task force that was due to deploy to Zabul province under RC South, he said. Another unit operating in Zabul is the Hohenfels, Germany-based 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. Upon returning to Germany, soldiers from the unit will help train the Strykers during a mission-rehearsal exercise in winter or early spring, Sieber said.
“Having that firsthand experience in RC South – you can’t ask for a better training opportunity,” he said.
Soldiers from 2nd Cav are learning Pashtu phrases such as “Hello”, “Do you need help” and “Are you injured” that will enable them to communicate in southern Afghanistan, he said.
“The thought is if you focus soldiers on 20 key phrases, that will break the cultural barrier,” he said.
The veteran of the regiment’s last deployment to Iraq, from 2006 to 2008, said he expects Afghanistan to be a different sort of fight.
“There’s much less infrastructure and services in Afghanistan that there were in Iraq,” he said. “As we draw down our mission in Iraq and turn that over to the Iraqi forces we are now pushing these resources into Afghanistan. The focus is there and I think we will make an impact.”
Also deploying this spring will be the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, out of Fort Campbell, Ky., which will relieve an Army unit now in eastern Afghanistan, Whitman said.
Together, the two units have about 7,700 troops, he said. In fall 2010, the 34th Infantry Division of the Iowa National Guard will also head to Afghanistan.
The Defense Department also announced Tuesday that a squadron of MV-22 Osprey aircraft out of Jacksonville, N.C., will deploy to Afghanistan next month.
This marks the Afghanistan debut for the MV-22, which can fly like a fixed-wing aircraft and hover like a helicopter. The move involves about 200 Marines and between 10 to 12 aircraft, officials said.