More than 2,000 Stryker Brigade soldiers from Fort Wainwright are en route to Iraq, or soon will be, for another 9-month deployment. And while the Army continues to move the personnel, it’s also transporting their gear and equipment to the Persian Gulf nation.
The deployment officially began a little over two weeks ago, with a sendoff ceremony on Fort Wainwright that included the 9th Army Band and speeches by senior leaders with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team and U.S. Army Alaska.
By the end of this month, more than half of the Strykers assigned to Wainwright will be in Iraq.
“The deployments are ongoing right now, so … we’re well over halfway pushing soldiers out,” says Lt. Col. Drew Lynch, the brigade’s Task Force Reserve commander.
Lynch is helping coordinate the movement of the seven Stryker battalions, which include cavalry, infantry, field artillery and engineer units. He says the soldiers fly out Fairbanks on Army-contracted commercial airliners, but most of their gear is transported by multiple surface-transportation modes – initially via the Alaska Railroad to the Port of Anchorage.
“Most of that goes by rail down to the port, and then out by boat,” he said, “and so at any point in time, that equipment would be on either a train, a boat or even trucks. And there’s a small element of equipment that is also flown directly from here into theater.”
Lynch says this deployment will not, however, include their iconic 8-wheeled Stryker vehicles, which often can be seen moving between training ranges around the Interior.
“Because of the nature of the mission – which is a train-advise-assist with our partner nations, and our partner forces – the Stryker platforms aren’t needed for that mission,” he said.
Lynch says the Stryker soldiers are part of a joint task force that will mainly be helping train Iraqi troops, law-enforcement officers and others who maintain security in the war-torn nation.
“What you see is our leaders and our soldiers over there working side-by-side to enable those forces to execute and establish security and then to grow that capacity over time.”
But Lynch says that doesn’t mean this deployment won’t be dangerous. He says U.S. military personnel face risk operating in many places around Iraq and elsewhere in the region, which falls under the purview of the U.S. Central Command, or Centcom.
“Any deployment, especially to a Centcom region, has inherent dangers and inherent risk,” he said. “But we’ve found through time that unless we do this by, with and through our partner nations, then there’s always the risk that they don’t grow the capacity, and that we end up going back, in the future.”
This is the Stryker brigade’s third deployment to Iraq, this time in support of what the Pentagon calls Operation Inherent Resolve. It follows earlier missions there in 2005 and 2008. The Strykers also deployed to Afghanistan in 2011.