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Bush Assures Odierno Iraq Progress Will Continue

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2008 – President Bush thanked the former commander of Multinational Corps Iraq today on behalf of all U.S. troops who have served in Iraq for creating a turnaround that Bush promised to continue to support.

Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno left Iraq recently after a 15-month stint in charge of coalition ground forces, serving under Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq.

“I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us in Iraq,” Bush told Odierno following their meeting today at the White House. “You and General Petraeus were a unbelievably strong one-two combination.”

Bush said he wanted to hear Odierno’s take on actions in Iraq to ensure the right decisions were being made and that progress being made is real.

“This is a man who was there when times looked grim and a man who observed firsthand progress that was made as a result of the surge,” he said. “He is a straightforward fellow who gave me his candid advice on how best to proceed.”

Odierno’s recommendations weren’t about troop levels, but rather the tools troops on the ground need to accomplish their mission. Among those the general touted was the Commanders’ Emergency Response Program that gives ground commanders discretionary funds to help local residents rebuild and reconcile.

Bush said he assured Odierno today that “the gains that you and your teams have made will continue on, because stakes in Iraq are essential for peace, essential for freedom and essential for the security of this country.”

The general has served 30 months in Iraq since the war began, most recently as commander of Multinational Corps Iraq. He transferred command to Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III during a Feb. 14 ceremony at Al Faw Palace in Baghdad.

Odierno, who has commanded the 3rd U.S. Corps since May 2006, has been nominated to receive his fourth star and to become the Army’s vice chief of staff. If confirmed, he will succeed Army Gen. Richard Cody in the Army’s No.2 military position.

Bush said that in thanking Odierno, he’s thanking “everybody who has worn the uniform and served in this war against extremists and terrorists,” as well as their families.

“In thanking the general, I'm also thanking Mrs. (Linda) Odierno, and every wife or every husband whose spouse has been far away from home and is serving,” he said.

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Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, USA

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