As US-Iran tensions escalate, no changes so far for Alaska-based Army units

Stryker Brigade soldiers and their vehicles head out for a live-fire training exercise on the Yukon Training Area near Fort Wainwright in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Justin Connaher, U.S. Air Force)

Hostilities between the U.S. and Iran ratcheted up with the American assassination of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani outside Baghdad International Airport Jan. 3. Around 3,500 members of the 82nd Airborne unit stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina are now being sent to the Middle East, according to media reports.

U.S. Army Alaska spokesman John Pennell said Friday that no additional troops from Alaska are set to be sent abroad at this point in time. However, with thousands of Alaska-based soldiers currently stationed in Iraq, and thousands more set to begin combat training in the coming weeks, there is the potential for Alaska brigades to become involved in the standoff.

More than 2,000 soldiers from Fort Wainwright’s Stryker Brigade are currently in Iraq for a nine-month deployment. They were part of some 14,000 troops the Pentagon has sent to Iraq since May. Earlier in the week, members of the Stryker brigade were “providing overwatch” for the U.S. embassy compound as thousands of protestors breached it, according to Pennell. That means they were set up to react to the situation, but were not directly on-site.  

The Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage wrapped up a deployment to Afghanistan in 2018. They are about to head out of state for roughly a month of training exercises at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana. When they are done there, they “will have hit all the necessary stepping stones” to be considered available to deploy for combat operations, according to Pennell. 

An official with the First Stryker Brigade Combat Team said in September that the unit’s soldiers will carry out a “train-advise-assist” role while in Iraq. The mission calls for the Stryker Brigade soldiers to help train troops from Iraq and other partner nations, as well as law-enforcement officers and others who maintain security.

Additional reporting by Tim Ellis in Fairbanks.