WASHINGTON, March 16, 2007 – The total number of U.S. servicemembers who will be part of the surge in Iraq will be about 28,000 overall, a Defense Department official said today.
Combat troops going into Iraq will number about 21,500, the Pentagon official said in a background briefing to reporters. By early June, this will bring the number of brigade combat teams or their equivalents up to 20 from 15. Currently, 142,000 U.S. servicemembers are in Iraq.
Those combat forces require support. Early on, officials estimated the number of servicemembers in combat service or combat service support roles to be roughly 10 percent of the number of combat troops, which put the number around 2,400, an official said.
But Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new commander of Multinational Force Iraq, asked for additional support troops. Petraeus requested 2,200 military police to aid in detention operations and an aviation brigade to provide added mobility for the Iraqi and coalition forces that will be part of Operation Fadr al Qanoon – the Baghdad security plan.
Petraeus’s request led Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to tell lawmakers during testimony that the surge would probably require 7,000 to 8,000 servicemembers serving in support roles.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates approved the request for the military police earlier. Yesterday, Gates approved moving up the deployment date of the 3rd Infantry Division’s combat aviation brigade from the summer to late April to early May. The Army has notified the units of the new deployment date.
The brigade has about 2,600 soldiers, and it provides the full range of capabilities from Black Hawk and Chinook lift helicopters to Kiowa and Apache attack helicopters. “This is part of the additional 7,000 to 8,000 combat support ‘enablers’ to support the additional five brigade combat teams,” the DoD official said.
This is the third deployment to Iraq for the unit. The brigade fought Operation Iraqi Freedom in March and April 2003, and served as part of Multinational Division Baghdad in 2005.