Rumsfeld Thanks Troops for Actions, Sacrifices
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 6, 2003 American service members can be very proud of the roles they are playing in Iraq and around the world, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.
Rumsfeld is in Iraq visiting American service members and meeting with military and coalition leaders. He is using the trip to get a feel for conditions in the country.
Rumsfeld spoke to members of the 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit, to soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul and the 1st Armored Division here. He also visited with the Polish-led Multinational Division Central-South in Al Hillah. U.S. Marines are helping the division as it settles in.
At each location, he thanked the service members for their sacrifices and their willingness to volunteer to perform what is still a dangerous mission. At the 4th Infantry Division which is in the heart of remaining support for the former regime in an area some soldiers call "Baathland" the secretary said the soldiers are doing a truly outstanding job.
"It's noticed, it's appreciated, it's important," the secretary said.
Rumsfeld said the job is important not only to the Iraqi people, but also to the region and the world. "I recognize that the circumstance for you here is far from perfect and you have family and loved ones at home, but the appreciation that the president of the United States and I and the American people have for the sacrifice you make and the sacrifice your families make is enormous," he said.
At the 101st, he told the soldiers they helped free more than 23 million people. "It's an enormous accomplishment," the secretary said. "You will never forget it.
"I have been watching and observing, and needless to say, am interested in all that you do," he continued. "The difficulties of what you do (are) well known. The fact that you've lost some of your colleagues is well known. The accomplishments, however, are less well known."
Rumsfeld said the provincial governor of Nineveh, where Mosul is, was very complimentary of the American soldiers' contributions. He listed the division's work in building schools and roads, fixing bridges, and helping with thousands of small projects making life better for the average Iraqi as examples of this work. "I hope that as you go forward, those accomplishments become as well known as the difficulties," he said.
"We're on a path that will ultimately succeed. There have been bumps in the road and there will be bumps in the road going forward."
At each location, Rumsfeld took questions from the soldiers. At the 1st Armored Division, a soldier asked about whether separation pay and hazardous duty pay were going to drop. The secretary answered that while Congress has such a proposal on the table, he would be surprised if the pay dropped.
He also was asked about the status of the reserve components especially regarding deployments. He said the department is studying the balance between the active and reserve components. Some skill sets are only in the reserves, and that means they get called up almost regularly, he explained. "If they wanted that, they would be on active duty as opposed to being in the Guard and reserve," the secretary said. The study will be out soon, and it will seek to relieve the stress on these communities, he assured the soldiers.
At Mosul, a soldier asked about the possibility of an end- strength rise. Rumsfeld said the department should try other options before asking for more people. He cited a study showing that 320,000 military personnel are in jobs that could be done by civilian workers. The department needs legislation to implement those changes.
"We have nothing more important, nothing more valuable to the armed forces, than the men and women in uniform," he said. "We simply have to find modern ways of managing that force so that we can attract and retain and deal fairly and responsibly with each of you, and all of your colleagues around the world."