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Volume 18, Number 21, May 19, 2004

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U.S. Brigade in S. Korea Reassigned to Iraq

About 3,600 members of the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division will deploy to Iraq from the Republic of Korea, Defense Department officials confirmed today. 

The troops will begin deploying to Iraq in mid-summer, a senior official said speaking on background. 

The decision can be made with impunity, because of the beefed-up capabilities the United States has on the Korean peninsula, the official said. More capable air assets, a Patriot 3 brigade, rotating Stryker battalions, and far better command, control, computers, communications and intelligence facilities more than make up for the drop of U.S. troops in South Korea to 34,000, the official added. 

"Ongoing global posture review is strengthening our position in Asia and Korea," said Richard Lawless, deputy defense undersecretary for Asia-Pacific policy. "This strengthened global and regional posture, including our efforts under way in Korea to realign U.S. forces and enhance our capabilities, allows us to employ our forces worldwide in a more flexible manner." 

Lawless said that if needed, the United States can quickly augment air and naval presence in the Asia-Pacific region. 

Officials said Korean and Japanese leaders were informed of and agreed with the U.S. decision. They said it is part of the overall look at U.S. global posture. 

The re-assigned troops will spend one year in Iraq. Since military tours of Korea are typically one-year unaccompanied tours, some soldiers will spend up to two years separated from their families. Officials said the majority will spend between 12 and 18 months away from home. No decision has been made on whether the brigade will return to Korea following its tour of duty in Iraq. 

A senior military official said the troops are fully combat ready, and that this will allow the stress to be "balanced" throughout the force. He said DoD also is looking at changing the tour length of Marine forces assigned to Iraq. Currently, Marines spend seven months in Iraq and seven months home. 

Officials said that North Korea should not look at the deployment as an invitation to invade the South. "Due to our strengthened posture and the ability to quickly reinforce capabilities throughout the region, we can deploy forces from Korea without assuming additional operational risks," Lawless said. 

"It would be a misperception on the part of the North Koreans, let me put it that way," said the senior military official. 

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