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800 Schofield soldiers to deploy to Iraq

A deployment ceremony will be held Wednesday at Schofield Barracks as 800 soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division headquarters prepare to deploy to Iraq.

Maj. Gen. Bernard Champoux, the 25th Division commander, will take over command in Baghdad and in Anbar province to the west, the latter being the biggest geographic province in Iraq and which includes onetime flash points Ramadi and Fallujah.

Most of the soldiers will leave for Iraq after Thanksgiving.

The Schofield soldiers will be part of a diminishing U.S. presence in Iraq, with fewer than 50,000 U.S. troops left in the country.

The U.S. had planned to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. U.S. forces have dropped from a high of nearly 170,000 during the surge in 2007.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, however, recently said the U.S. is leaving options open for extending a troop presence in the country.

Champoux previously said he would be in charge of about 8,000 U.S. troops. By comparison, during the surge, there were 28,000 in Baghdad alone.

During the year-long deployment — which will extend to the formal mission end date for U.S. forces in the country — the Schofield soldiers will continue to advise, assist and train Iraqi Security Forces.

The name of the mission was changed on Sept. 1 from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn to reflect the end of U.S. combat missions.

The deployment ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. on Wednesday and include remarks by Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona.

About 3,700 soldiers with the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Hawaii have been in northern Iraq since June and July. The unit, relabeled the 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, is expected to be in Iraq until next June.

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