Just-Returned Troops Sent Back to Iraq

The Associated Press
Monday, August 14, 2006; 9:19 PM

WASHINGTON -- About 300 Alaska-based soldiers sent home from Iraq just before their unit's deployment was extended last month must now go back, the Army said Monday, setting up a wrenching departure for troops and families who thought their service there was finished.

The soldiers _ all from the 172nd Stryker Brigade _ are among the close to 380 troops who had gotten home to Fort Wainwright and to Fort Richardson when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered the unit to serve four more months. The remaining 80 will not have to return to Iraq.

Army officials sent a team of personnel and pay experts to Alaska to help sort out all of the soldiers' vacations, school enrollments and other plans torn apart by the decision to return them to Iraq. The unit is now being stationed in Baghdad, one of the most violent parts of the country.

Maj. Gen. Charles Jacoby, commander of U.S. Army Alaska, said 301 soldiers will be returning to Iraq, and most are either infantry troops or cavalry scouts needed for the Baghdad mission.

"From a military standpoint, it makes all the sense in the world," said Jacoby, speaking to Pentagon reporters from Alaska, where he was surrounded by a few soldiers and family members affected by the decision. "The brigade needs these soldiers back."

Mary Cheney _ no relation to the vice president _ was sitting nearby and said she wasn't happy when she learned her husband, Staff Sgt. Anthony Cheney, would be in Iraq for another four months. But she said she knew when she married him that things like this could happen.

"I would never question his dedication to his career," said Cheney, who had a baby just a few weeks ago and has three other children. "His heart is with his family, but his mind and his dedication" are with his extended family of fellow soldiers.

The bulk of the 172nd Brigade was still in Iraq when Rumsfeld extended their deployment as part of a plan to quell the escalating violence in Baghdad. Overall, the brigade has about 3,900 troops.

Another 300 soldiers from the unit had left Iraq and gotten to Kuwait, and were about to board flights home when they were called back.

Before Monday's announcement, the troops who had already returned home to Alaska had been told that decisions on their fates would be made on a case-by-case basis.

Army officials said they recalled just one other time during the three-year-long Iraq war when the Pentagon so quickly recalled soldiers who had served a year on the battlefront and gotten home.

Other units have had their deployments extended anywhere from a week or two to a few months.

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