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Common Commitment Unifies Multinational Division Troops

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2003 – It's probably one of the most diverse military units ever established: a 10,000-man division made up of soldiers from 21 countries who speak 17 different languages and have different equipment, operating procedures and rules of engagement.

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Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz poses with U.S. and coalition troops assigned to the Multinational Division South-Central in Hilla, Iraq, Oct. 24. Photo by Donna Miles
  

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Polish Maj. Gen. Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, commander of the Multinational Division South-Central, told Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz during his Oct. 24 visit to the division's headquarters in Hillah, Iraq, that the unit's biggest challenge is overcoming its many differences to operate as "one team with one mission."

Soldiers from Poland, Ukraine, Spain, Hungary, Honduras, Kazakhstan, El Salvador, Lithuania, Mongolia, Romania, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Thailand, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Latvia and the Dominican Republic are represented in the division. Poland has the largest representation, with about 2,500 troops, followed by Spain and Ukraine.

Together, these troops are responsible for the area south of Baghdad that encompasses Karbala, Babil, Najaf, Al Qadisayah and Wasit.

Despite their differences, division soldiers say that what unifies them is their common commitment to a free and stable Iraq.

"It's great to be a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom to help the Iraqis have their own livelihood and to live in freedom," said Capt. Ferdinand Buscato, one of 94 volunteers from the Philippines who serves in the division.

Lt. Col. Vladimir Meciar from the Slovakian army said he's impressed by the level of cooperation among the division members. "No matter what our differences, when we work together, we speak in one language and have one goal," he said.

Meciar called participation in the multinational division "very important to Slovakia," which is contributing an engineering company with de-mining capabilities.

"We are participating as a NATO partner," Meciar said. Slovakia was invited last spring to join NATO, and is expected to become a member next year.

Capt. Sukhbaatar Togtmol, a doctor who has been in the Mongolian army for six years, said he raised his hand to serve a six-month deployment in Iraq because he wanted to be sure his nation was represented in the coalition.

"I represent more than myself. I represent my whole country," Togtmol said.

He works in the medical division of Multinational Division South-Central headquarters, , assisting with medical and casualty evacuations. "Working here, it is real wartime," he said, nothing that Operation Iraqi Freedom is his first overseas deployment. "It gives you a great deal of experience," he said.

Lt. Andrew Shmilyk from the Ukraine army said the opportunity to expand his military experience and learn the Arabic language led him to volunteer for duty in Iraq. One of 1,800 Ukrainian soldiers in the multinational division, Shmilyk serves in the tactical operations center.

"The work here is interesting, and the way everyone works together is great," Shmilyk said. "But the best part of all is meeting Iraqi people who tell us they are happy that we are here and like what we are doing."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDeputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, center, meets with Polish Maj. Gen. Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, commander of the Multinational Division South-Central, right, and Maj. Gen. Mieczystaw Bieniek, who will soon assume command for the division, Oct. 24. Photo by Donna Miles  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCapt. Sukhbaatar Togtmol, a doctor in the Mongolian army, said he volunteered to serve in the Multinational Division because he wanted to be sure his nation was represented in the coalition. Photo by Donna Miles  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageLt. Andrew Shmilyk is among 1,800 members of the Ukraine army serving in the Multinational Division. Photo by Donna Miles  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. Marines Capt. Matt Brannen, right, and Staff Sgt. John Hanke serve as U.S. liaisons to the Multinational Division in Hilla, Iraq. "It's important for us to be a part of resettling this country," said Hanke. Photo by Donna Miles  
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