FAIRBANKS - About half of Fort Wainwright's largest unit will deploy to Iraq later this year, the Army announced Friday.
The unit, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, numbers about 4,500 soldiers and recently completed training in Fort Irwin, California.
In its new mission, the Fairbanks-based soldiers will replace the Fort Campbell, Kentucky-based 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. The Fairbanks soldiers will work to stabilize an area previously controlled by the Islamic State group now known officially by the U.S. and its allies by the Arabic term Daech.
This will be the brigade's third deployment to Iraq. It has also deployed to Afghanistan. The most recent previous deployment was to Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012.
Partial unit deployment
Leaders haven't said which soldiers will deploy, brigade spokesman Maj. Charlie Dietz said.
"That is still being decided, and we 100 percent owe them that," he said.
The final determination will depend on what senior leaders learned on a recent trip to Iraq to determine what forces will be needed. The current plan is to send some soldiers from all seven battalions in the brigade combat team, Dietz said. Soldiers who who don't deploy will continue training in Alaska in case they are later needed.
The deployment is expected to last about a year, starting this summer, Dietz said.
There had been talk on post since November of an upcoming deployment, Dietz said. The announcement was made official Friday with the notification of Congress and the public.
Mission in Iraq
The U.S. military mission that followed the 2003 invasion of the country to depose leader Saddam Hussein ended in 2011. Fort Wainwright soldiers deployed in support of that war in 2005 and 2008.
The mission that Fort Wainwright soldiers will support this year is a fight against the Islamic State group, which previously occupied parts of Iraq and Syria. The fight was formally named in 2014 as Operation Inherent Resolve.
The brigade will be working out of seven training centers around Iraq, Dietz said. The bases are managed in partnership with the allied nations of Denmark, Spain, Italy, Australia and Canada.
News of the deployment come a week after the Islamic State group lost its last piece of territory in Syria. At its peak in 2015, the Islamic State controlled an area in Iraq and Syria that was larger than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Without territory to govern, the Islamic State group now operates more like an underground terrorist network.
The international coalition the Fort Wainwright soldiers are assisting describes its role now that territory has been taken back as "consolidating gains." That mission includes attacking remnant Islamic State forces and providing security to help local people transition to normal life.
“The Arctic Wolves are trained, equipped, and exceptionally well led at echelon. The brigade has readied itself for any mission,” said Col. Matthew Brown, the 1/25 Stryker Brigade commander, in a news release about the deployment Friday. "We are privileged to be joining the international coalition that will defeat ISIS and set conditions for increased regional stability."
Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors