A group of soldiers from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division were escorted to Fairbanks International Airport on Sunday evening by the Fairbanks Police Department to deploy to Iraq.
Starting next week, a little under 2,500 soldiers from Fort Wainwright will follow this “torch-party.” The deployment is expected to last nine months.
The deployment consists of about half of the brigade. Soldiers will be replacing the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division as part of a regular rotation of forces.
According to Maj. Charlie Dietz, the Fort Wainwright brigade's public affairs officer, the group that left Sunday is referred to as the “torch party” or “advance party.”
“They are going to go and get set up so that, when we move through, it will all be smooth,” Dietz said.
The Department of Defense established Combined Joint Task Force—Operation Inherent Resolve in October 2014. The operation’s purpose is to drive out remaining ISIS forces in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and to set conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability.
Dietz explained that more than 70 partner nations are involved in the operation and emphasized that it’s not just about ridding the countries of ISIS but also ensuring that public safety and general stability can be achieved. According to Dietz, the brigade will be traveling and working throughout the country in "multiple locations."
“We’re going to be there to train the Iraqi Army and get them self-sufficient,” he said. “That’s the focus. Anything that we’re doing is going to be in partnership with them. They’ll be leading it.”
Dietz said the rest of the roughly 2,500 soldiers will be leaving Fort Wainwright sporadically beginning next week and that the entire group will be in Iraq by the end of September. This will be the brigade's third deployment to Iraq. It has also deployed to Afghanistan, which was the location of its most recent deployment in 2011 and 2012.
A statement issued by Col. Matthew W. Brown, commander of the unit, stated that the brigade has received all the training it needs to offer support for the operation.
“The Arctic Wolves are trained, equipped, and exceptionally well led at echelon. The brigade has readied itself for any mission,” Brown said in a news release. "We are privileged to be joining the international Coalition that will defeat ISIS and set conditions for increased regional stability."
A little over 2,000 soldiers will remain at Fort Wainwright, where training will continue. Dietz said that roughly a third of those soldiers will be ready to deploy to Iraq if needed.
“We’re going to have guys ready to go,” he said.
Contact staff writer Alistair Gardiner at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.