Up to 20,000 Fort Bliss soldiers ready for deployment to Iraq, if needed
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — As a group of violent extremists zero in on Baghdad, target Iraq's largest oil refinery, and threaten to take Baghdad International Airport over, lawmakers in Washington continue to battle it out over how the United States should handle the Iraqi crisis.
“The President has been watching what we've been watching for over a year as a situation in Iraq continued to be undermined yet nothing - nothing, has been done to try and reverse it," said House Speaker, John Boehner.
President Obama met with congressional leaders on Wednesday to try and figure out how to act.
He has ruled out sending American troops into combat in Iraq but military installations like Fort Bliss are preparing anyway in case the President changes his mind.
“We continue to train on a daily basis, to answer that call if and when we get requested either by our appointed or elected officials," said Fort Bliss spokesperson LTC Lee Peters.
LTC Peters says Fort Bliss has between 19,000 to 20,000 soldiers available to be deployed, if needed.
One particular unit at Fort Bliss, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, is preparing to become a "regionally aligned, global responsive force," meaning their soldiers will go through a series of training exercises both locally and nationally, preparing to respond to a crisis anywhere in the world.
"Our job is to be ready to go wherever the nation asks us to go," said Col. Chip Daniels, the new 4th Brigade Combat Team Commander.
As ISIS tightens their grip on Iraq and the US-trained Iraqi military struggles to fight back, Col. Daniels remembers training with the Iraqi Army.
"I wonder how many of those men were people that I served with. Iraqis that I served with," he said.
Col. Daniels was the last US Battalion Commander in Tikrit at the end of 2011 and he is haunted by the images from the area today.
“It's disheartening to see what has happened there. Frankly, it kept me up for two nights in a row as the images came in of Iraqi security forces being gathered up and executed," he said.
On Tuesday, President Obama announced he would send about 275 military personnel to Iraq to protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad -- none of them are from Fort Bliss.
Some Democrats in Washington are skeptical about getting too involved in Iraq, but Republicans argue the President isn’t doing enough.