Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, deploy to Iraq in last October as part of the 475 troops President Barack Obama ordered Sept. 10 to support our ally’s fight against the Islamic State of the Levant, the Pentagon announced at a Sept. 25 briefing.

Secretary of Defense Charles T. “Chuck” Hagel signed the deployment order Sept. 24 that sends 500 personnel from the division’s headquarters and headquarters battalion to the control of U.S. Central Command, the joint-force command with control over the Middle East, said Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Defense Department spokesman.

The deployment is expected to be for 12 months. The troops will advise and assist the Iraqi Security Forces to help them go on the offense against ISIL and conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights, he said. This will also increase the United States’ capacity to target ISIL and coordinate the activities of the U.S. military across Iraq.

The “Big Red One” is the oldest of the Army’s divisions and there is historical precedence for its troops to be the first to enter a hostile environment.

The division headquarters element was the “landowner” of the southern nine Iraqi provinces from 2010 to 2011, a time that included the second national election.

Known as the "Big Red One," the 1st Infantry Division is often the first unit sent into hostile areas. Although it is not authorized, 1ID soldiers often wear the red ceremonial patch. (Army photo)
Known as the “Big Red One,” the 1st Infantry Division is often the first unit sent into hostile areas. Although it is not authorized, 1ID soldiers often wear the red ceremonial patch. (Army photo)

“As brave, responsible and on-point Soldiers in the ‘Big Red One,’ we stand ready to deploy anywhere in the world to protect the United States of America, her citizens and her allies,” said Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley commanding general. “We are ready for anything because we know we have the nation behind us.”

Unlike the practice early in the Iraq War, headquarters elements can deploy independent from their organic unit as a module, in this case, the division headquarters is deploying as a package.

Kirby said 200 of the 500 troops will enter Iraq and the 300 others will remain outside the country as support. Only the 200 will count against the president’s 475 number, he said. The 475 number is also separate from the 15 to 17 military advisors that will be embedded with Iraqi Army brigades and their downtrace units. One hundred and thirty-eight Soldiers report to the Joint Operations Center at Baghdad, 68 to the Joint Operations Center in Erbil and roughly 10 more report to the Iraqi Army headquarters in Baghdad.

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