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NEWS | March 31, 2010

Iraq troop evacuation effects at Camp Atterbury

By Sgt. David Bruce Indiana National Guard

CAMP ATTERBURY JOINT MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Ind., - It started as a campaign promise, and in his State of the Union Address, it became policy.

In the speech, President Barack Obama stated that the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq will be accomplished by the end of August.

"As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people," said Obama. "As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as president. We will have our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of August of this year."

With the mission at Camp Atterbury being the training, mobilization and de-mobilization of troops, the question becomes, how does this affect operations here?

It is a simple question with a variety of answers.

Lt. Col. Timothy D. Holtke, director of Personnel and Community Affairs here, said the primary impact from the return of combat troops from Iraq will be an increase in demobilizations of these units at Camp Atterbury.

"First Army looks at all the mobilization sites and the present balance; how many folks they have mobilizing and demobilizing. They will redirect units to mobilization sites that do not have heavy workloads. Right now we are running at about half capacity," said Holtke. So based on present populations at Camp Atterbury, 1st Army could direct units here for demobilization.

The simple fact is, Iraq is not the only destination for troops mobilized from Camp Atterbury, nor is it the source of demobilizing troops.

Afghanistan will still be a destination for personnel mobilized through Camp Atterbury as well as other parts of the world.

"We have KFOR, we have civilian missions that go around the world and the Horn of Africa," said Holtke.

Iraq and Afghanistan are only part of the overall mission.

Any policy change that effects deployments will likely have an impact here, said Col. Barry Richmond, deputy commander for Camp Atterbury Muscatatuck Center for Complex Operations. "Many of the folks, who have been deploying recently, have been going to Afghanistan," he said. "There was a surge for Afghanistan to help build the Afghan national forces, which includes Afghan police and army forces. Even without Iraq as part of the equation, Camp Atterbury has been very busy as of late.

"The specifics remain unknown at this point. But just because one theater is winding down, that does not mean that operations here will be winding down as well. "We have never been focused on one theater. This provides us with opportunities to adjust our business practices to better align with our nation's needs."

This follows the principle of supply and demand, Richmond said.

While the demand for mobilizing combat troops may decline, the need for our other services and supporting civilian initiatives will continue and grow, he said.

"We have Soldier readiness processing," Richmond said. "Now we have what I call civilian readiness processing. The experience and expertise we've developed lends itself very well to consider and expand on these new missions of preparing civilians to go over in the employment of our national power."

Richmond said there will also be opportunities to develop homeland security support. Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck Urban Training Center are unique training environments for bringing diverse government agencies together to train for disaster response.

And then there is the traditional role of Camp Atterbury, which is training. As units shift from deployment they will resume training.

Richmond said Camp Atterbury will continue to provide training resources to reserve components and active units.

At the end of the day, or in this case the end of a war, there will be long term effects from the withdrawal for troops from Iraq, Guard officials said. But instead of things slowing down here, doors open to new challenges that require the expertise of the Soldiers and civilian employees of Camp Atterbury.

"We respond to mission changes, and that's all this is," said Richmond.