Combat Commander: Morale High for Troops Around Baghdad
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 28, 2006 U.S. troops serving in the provinces around Baghdad believe in the mission they’re performing and know they’re making a difference in the lives of Iraqis, a U.S. commander in the area said today.
“I'd say that morale among my troops is very good,” Army Col. John Tully, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, said in a news conference from Camp Liberty. “Based on the sensing sessions I've done and going around just talking to people, getting feedback from officers and NCOs, just talking to troops, morale is very high.
“They're very proud of what they've accomplished,” he continued. “They see that they're making a difference. And overall, I'd give us at least a B-plus in morale.”
Despite the difficulty of his unit’s mission, Tully said, he hasn’t had a problem keeping his soldiers motivated.
“I've not had that issue,” he said in response to a question about whether it’s getting harder to motivate his unit’s soldiers. “It has not been increasingly difficult. We're doing OK. So far, so good in the 2nd Brigade, 4th ID.”
Asked about a published report that included comments from a soldier in Iraq saying morale is low, Tully said no military unit is unanimously happy.
“As far as the comment about the one soldier (is concerned), you're going to have pockets of individuals in any unit that are unhappy,” the colonel said. “But you’ve just got to do the best you can to keep soldiers informed, tell them the importance of the mission and keep folks motivated through just strong small-unit leadership.”
Tully’s unit is responsible for Najaf, Karbala and Babil provinces and a small part of southern Baghdad province.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team has about 3,700 U.S. soldiers, who partner with Iraqi soldiers from six Iraqi army battalions, Tully said. The BCT also assists with training about 28,000 Iraq police.
Partnerships with Iraqi security forces and local governments have contributed to the unit’s success in the area, Tully said. Because of the work of Iraqi forces and community involvement of the U.S. military, the BCT’s area of operations has seen very little sectarian violence, he said. The U.S. forces have been successful “by being tough when they need to be need tough, but helping generate jobs, train the Iraqi security forces, support the local government councils, (and) treat Iraqis with respect,” he said.
Coalition forces in the area helped start an agricultural union, created jobs in an industrial complex, and helped with constructing Iraqi police stations, water treatment plants, road repairs, electrical distribution lines, and other things. It will take many years to get Iraq the basic services it needs, but every new building is a step in the right direction, he said.
“We are generating hope through economic, political and security improvements,” he said.
Tully’s unit will not participate directly in the upcoming increase of coalition presence in Baghdad, but will likely work to interdict supply lines feeding the insurgency there, Tully said. There is a concern that increased sectarian violence in Baghdad will spill over into northern Babil province, he said, so the unit is working closely with Iraqi security forces and local leaders to prepare.
In all U.S. military operations in the area, respect for Iraqis is a high priority, Tully said. The units in the area have stressed this in a number of ways, such as changing their driving tactics to be less aggressive and addressing Iraqis as equals in one-on-one situations, he said. The rules of engagement haven’t changed, he said, and all soldiers have gone through values training to remind them of what it means to wear the uniform.
“My brigade is not unique; it's like every other brigade in the Army, and it's filled with remarkable young men and women -- soldiers who have volunteered to serve their country and are doing great work under tough circumstances,” he said.