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Myers Thanks Marines, Sailors for Iraqi Freedom Service

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Oct. 21, 2003 – Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers thanked Marines and sailors based here for their contributions to success in Operation Iraqi Freedom Oct. 20.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Wearing a 5th Marines ball cap, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanked the regiment for its service in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Myers visited the Marines at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 20. Photo by Jim Garamone
  

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

Myers also told the service members that Marine units might be a part of the next Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment cycle.

Myers told about 4,000 members of the 5th Marines and the 3rd Marine Air Wing, to include assigned Navy hospital corpsmen, that they did a magnificent job in Iraq. He said the world was impressed by their professionalism and also by their compassion.

The chairman said the U.S. forces that liberated Iraq brought the values of America with them. The Marines are warriors, he pointed out, but at the same time they had to be Iraq's "best friends."

Myers said the Iraqi people were themselves victims of the terrorism. They are still a fearful people, he said, but they are coming out from under that fear. "There is not a more courageous force on this earth than you and your fellow warriors in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard," Myers said. "At the same time there is not a more compassionate force. You take all of America's values with you when you go to the front lines."

Myers said their service whether in Iraq or supporting those in the country is key to confronting terrorism. "We've never lived in a time when it's been more important to serve your country and to protect your country," he said. He said that in his opinion the threat is the greatest America has faced since the Civil War.

"Why so bad?" he asked. Attacks like those on Sept. 11, 2001, create fear and lack of confidence in people. There was not only the loss of life, but the world economy took a substantial hit following the attacks.

"I read the intel every day and my guess is if they could, al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations would love to have another September 11th event," Myers said. "They would love to make it worse with biological weapons or radiological weapons."

The chairman said the most important aspect today in the global war on terrorism is the battle in Iraq. Myers told the Marines and sailors that the enemy thinks it can beat the United States. He said they have looked at events in the recent past the October 1983 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut and the October 1993 Day of the Rangers in Somalia and decided the United States will leave if the going gets too rough.

He said U.S. resolve first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq should prove to terrorists that the United States is in this conflict for the long haul. "They think their will is stronger than ours," he said. "But it's not."

Myers said Marine units may be needed in the next Iraq deployment in February, March and April 2004. He said no decision has been made so far, but U.S. Central Command chief Army Gen. John Abizaid will decide what capabilities he needs and forward that request to the Pentagon.

"As we speak, folks at the Pentagon are working very hard to look at the next rotation for Iraq," Myers said. Some units have already been notified that they will deploy.

Whether Marine units go depends to a great extent on how many Iraqis are involved in security matters and how many international troops are available. Myers told the troops that there are more than 70,000 Iraqi members of the police, the Civil Defense Corps, the Border Guard and the Infrastructure Protection Service. There are also about 23,000 international soldiers in two multinational divisions in the country. He said there is a "good chance" there will be a third multinational division.

He promised the Marines that if they are needed, the Pentagon will get the information out to them soon.

The chairman addressed the situation in North Korea in response to a question. He said the "best hope for the Korean situation is to let the diplomatic process work." The United States, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea are working with North Korea to stop that country from developing nuclear weapons and proliferating nuclear and missile technologies.

He said the situation in North Korea is "sad," adding that the people there are starving. The effect on them is so bad that the military had to lower the height requirement for the North Korean military from 5 feet 2 inches to 4 foot 8 inches, Myers noted.

"There has to be a bargain here somewhere where they give up their nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and they get on the path to being a normal nation," he said.

The United States remains committed to the defense of South Korea. "If you are not strong, people will take on weakness," he said. "So we're going to stay very strong in the Asia-Pacific region. We're going to stay very strong on the Korean peninsula."

In answer to another question, the chairman spoke about the role of special operations forces. He said success in Afghanistan came by putting A teams and B teams into the country. "When Kabul fell, there were 2,000 Americans in Afghanistan," he said. "The Soviets had 300,000 soldiers in Afghanistan and they were forced out."

During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, special operators were largely unused. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, they preceded the main force and often controlled conventional military formations.

"No one is saying you don't need all elements of the armed forces," he said. What is really happening is the U.S. military is going to use all elements to fight the global war on terrorism, he noted.

 

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