Mongolia Signs on for Another Iraqi Freedom Rotation
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 19, 2004 Mongolian President Natsagiyn Bagabandi announced that his country will participate in a third rotation of troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Mongolian military has 130 infantrymen serving as part of the Multinational Division Central/South. That same level will continue in the next rotation.
President Bush welcomed Mongolia's commitment to combat international terrorism and applauded Mongolia's participation in the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq, including its peacekeeping commitment to the Multinational Force in Iraq, according to a joint release after their July 15 meeting.
In addition, the United States will continue to work with Mongolia to develop the country's peacekeeping potential.
The two presidents agreed that the establishment of a free, democratic Iraq is important to democracy, peace and stability in the Middle East and the United Nations should play a leading role in the process, according to the release.
Mongolia has had troops in Iraq supporting the Polish-led division since August. Suzanne Ross, the Defense Department's country director for Mongolia, said the Mongolian military has gained "a widespread reputation as being very dependable, very gallant soldiers."
The best-known Mongolian soldier is Sgt. Garbold Azzaya. The noncommissioned officer shot and killed a suicide bomber who was trying to drive a truck onto the Multinational Division's compound in Hillah, Iraq. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski decorated the sergeant for his actions.
Two members of the Alaskan National Guard are deployed with the Mongolian troops, Ross said. "From all reports our soldiers are just honored to be working with them," Ross said.
Mongolia is very active in the global war on terror. In addition to putting troops into Iraq, Mongolian soldiers are helping in Afghanistan. Mongolian soldiers due to their familiarity with Soviet-era weaponry are rehabilitating artillery pieces and other arms for the Afghan National Army.
Bagabandi also met with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Gen. Tesvegsurengin Togoo, chief of the general staff for Mongolia's armed forces, also met with Rumsfeld.