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Rumsfeld Cheers U.S. Troops During Surprise Iraq Visit

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Dec. 24, 2004 – During a surprise trip to Iraq Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today shared Christmas-Eve cheer with U.S. troops serving here and in the cities of Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld presents the Purple Heart Medal to Army Sgt. Chris Scott, 29, of Oklahoma City, Okla., Dec. 24 at the 67th Combat Surgical Hospital in Mosul, Iraq. Rumsfeld shared Christmas-Eve cheer with U.S. troops serving in Baghdad and in the cities of Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The trip had been planned for some time, Rumsfeld told traveling press members on his C-17 plane over the Atlantic Ocean en route to Iraq. The secretary noted he'd not only meet with U.S. troops during the trip, but would also discuss the current military situation in Iraq with senior Iraqi and U.S. leaders.

Rumsfeld also noted that progress of the Iraqi security forces would be discussed, as well as preparations for nationwide Iraqi elections slated for January.

Upon arrival in Iraq Rumsfeld first stopped off at the 67th Combat Surgical Hospital in Mosul where he met with medical staffers who'd treated U.S. troops wounded in the Dec. 21 suicide bomber blast that killed 14 soldiers and wounded at least 50.

At the hospital Rumsfeld presented wounded soldier Sgt. Chris Scott with the Purple Heart medal. Scott, a 29 year old from Oklahoma City, Okla., was wounded Dec. 23 by an improvised explosive device.

In Mosul Rumsfeld also greeted Army Lt. Gen. Tom Metz, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-7, who would accompany the secretary throughout the daylong trip across Iraq.

The secretary then visited and breakfasted with Mosul's Task Force Olympia troops and it's commander, Army Brig. Gen. Carter Ham.

Afterward, Rumsfeld flew off for Tikrit in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter flanked by an aerial security escort.

Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, met Rumsfeld in Tikrit, where the secretary also met with troops.

Batiste told Rumsfeld that he was "comfortable we're heading in the right direction" regarding security issues for the upcoming Iraqi elections slated for January.

Rumsfeld then flew on to Fallujah and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Sattler, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, met him there. The secretary made some remarks and lunched in Fallujah with some Marines.

Rumsfeld praised the Marines for their "brilliant," dangerous work in early November when they rooted out insurgents in Fallujah.

"This is a tough situation in Iraq," Rumsfeld said to the Marines in Fallujah. Yet, he predicted, the Marines and other U.S. service members will be proud of their accomplishments after Iraqis take control of their destiny and become a free, democratic nation.

Afterward, Rumsfeld's helicopter took him to Baghdad, where he attended a meeting with Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the U.S. commander of multinational forces in Iraq, and Metz. The secretary also met with interim Iraqi President Ghazi Al-Yawar.

The secretary then met with wounded troops in Baghdad at the 31st Combat Surgical Hospital. Later, he flew north of Baghdad to visit with troops at Camp Victory North.

Rumsfeld told reporters during the flight to Iraq that Iraqis who'd taken positions in the interim government and security forces had "guts," given the instances of apparent insurgent intimidation of such officials in some parts of the country.

And any attempted intimidation of law-abiding Iraqis, Rumsfeld pointed out, "is a factor that has to be considered in watching how this thing tips."

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