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Troops Haven’t Lost Faith in Rumsfeld

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BALAD, Iraq, Dec. 9, 2006 – As he prepares to enter his final week in office, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was greeted warmly here by the men and women in uniform he has led for the past six years.

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld meets with troops assigned to Al Asad Air Base during a surprise visit to Iraq Dec. 9, 2006. Photo by Cherie Thurlby

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Rumsfeld paid a surprise visit to servicemembers based in Iraq to thank them for their service. He met with troops on Al Asad Air Base in Anbar province and then with troops here.

In both places, the troops treated him like a rock star. The 74-year-old secretary flew aboard an Air Force C-17 from Washington. He worked through the night aboard the plane, but was still fresh enough to put in a full day speaking to and meeting the troops.

And they responded.

When he arrived to speak at Al Asad, he received a sustained ovation – punctuated by Marine OO-RAHs and Army HOOAHs. There were even a number of Air Force personnel who insisted on yelling “Airpower.”

After the speech in Al Asad, hundreds of servicemembers lined up for pictures with Rumsfeld. Many offered support for the secretary who steps down Dec. 18. “It isn’t a military problem out here,” said one Marine gunnery sergeant speaking on background. “It’s a political problem. No one in this country can challenge us militarily; we’d wipe the floor with them. The Iraqis have to ‘cowboy up.’”

Many soldiers and airmen at Balad said that if they have the patience and they haven’t lost faith, then the American people shouldn’t either. “This is my second year-long tour,” said a convoy commander at Anaconda Logistics Area. “Why am I more patient than someone sitting at home in ‘Fort Livingroom?’”

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

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Rumsfeld Thanks Troops for Service, Calls for U.S. Patience

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld meets with Iraqi soldiers at Forward Operating Base Hawk during a surprise visit to Iraq Dec. 9, 2006. Photo by Cherie Thurlby   
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