From the Fayetteville Observer
From this military family's perspective, the last sentence is the best news.
3rd Brigade headed to Iraq
By Henry Cuningham
The first of about 3,500 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division will begin leaving for Iraq this week.
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team will begin a yearlong deployment.
A small group will leave before Thanksgiving, and most will leave after Thanksgiving, said Col. Timothy P. McGuire, the brigade commander.
“It’s always hard to deploy and be away from your families,” McGuire said.
“But I actually think with a 12-month deployment, by heading out now, our paratroopers should be home for Christmas on the back side of the deployment so it can really be a great celebration on return,” he said.
The soldiers will operate in the Baghdad area.
The brigade combat team is formed around the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and includes two infantry battalions, a cavalry squadron, a field artillery battalion, a special troops battalion and a support battalion.
Some mid- to senior-level leaders in the brigade are on their second or third deployment, McGuire said. Some paratroopers are making their first deployment, he said.
McGuire visited Iraq in late September.
“It’s great to see the gains that have been made,” he said. “You can really feel it. It’s exciting on our watch. The elections will occur shortly after we arrive.”
Provincial elections will be held in January.
The arrival of a new U.S. president and Congress in early 2009 will provide an example of U.S. democracy as the Iraqis hold their elections, he said.
“I think we can point to our elections as how a democratic state goes ahead and solves problems,” McGuire said.
A big focus of the work will be on the relationship with the Iraqi Security Forces.
“We will try to work ourselves out of a job,” McGuire said. “Every day the Iraqi Security Forces get stronger, we get one day closer to coming home.”
The Iraqi Cabinet on Sunday approved a bilateral agreement allowing U.S. troops to remain in the country for three more years.
“The Status of Forces Agreement will impact how we do operations,” McGuire said. “Our main effort is building partnership, working hand-in-hand with the Iraqi Security Forces.”
McGuire’s brigade will replace soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division.
The 82nd Airborne’s 4th Brigade Combat Team and 1st Brigade Combat Team expect to deploy in mid-2009.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team will be kept at Fort Bragg in coming months to serve as a worldwide rapid-response force.