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Archive for Friday, March 10, 2006

Army generals meet to discuss expanded Fort Riley mission

March 10, 2006

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Several Army generals were in Kansas on Friday to discuss expanding Fort Riley's mission to include responsibilities related to training Iraqi security forces.

The post already is preparing for an influx of several thousand soldiers over the coming years with the return of the 1st Infantry Division headquarters from Germany after an 11-year absence. A spokeswoman said Friday that the Army expected to announce that Fort Riley's mission would include preparing U.S. forces bound for Iraq and other nations.

Deb Skidmore said the mission would be similar to one announced in recent months for the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division already based at Fort Riley. That brigade of more than 3,500 soldiers was scheduled for its second rotation in Iraq, but the Pentagon canceled that mission earlier this year.

"Our mission statement will change," Skidmore said. "We're still getting soldiers ready to go over, but we are getting additional missions."

The Army is expected to make Fort Riley a central location in the training of thousands soldiers destined for Iraq, Afghanistan or other nations to work with local security forces. Units will spend about 60 days on post before deploying overseas for up to a year.

"We're getting to the point that we're not doing the patrolling on our own. We're turning more over to the Iraqis," Skidmore said.

The ongoing mission will be similar to the mobilization of National Guard and Army Reserve forces already conducted at Fort Riley, Skidmore said.

Army officials in Washington were to announce details of the mission, including how many soldiers, its duration and what other changes can be expected, Skidmore said.

Fort Riley expects to have nearly 20,000 soldiers permanently assigned to the post in the coming years as the 1st Infantry Division comes back from Germany. Also, an aviation brigade will move to Fort Riley with attack and airlift helicopters.

Skidmore said about 12,000 soldiers were assigned to Fort Riley, with about 50 new soldiers arriving each week. The influx is causing a housing boom in surrounding communities as they prepare for the soldiers and thousands of dependents.

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