STAFF: Good afternoon. We appreciate you being here. Today we have with us Major General Paul Eaton. He is the commander of the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team, the organization tasked with building the foundation of the armed forces of Iraq. He has graciously agreed to be here today to provide an update on the progress being made on rebuilding the armed forces in Iraq.
He will be first providing some prepared comments and then will be answering some questions. We would like to welcome this afternoon members of the Pentagon press corps as well, who will be joining this conference via telecommunications, but will also be provided the opportunity to ask questions.
Let me explain how we'll work the question-answer period: for individuals seated in our Baghdad audience, General Eaton will select them at his discretion from among those raising their hands; at intervals he will say, "Now we will take a question from Washington"; at that point a monitor in the Defense briefing room at the Pentagon will select the questioner. He will also be trying to accommodate the local Arabic-speaking press. Translations of questions will be sent via a telecommunication device to General Eaton, at which time he will summarize the question and provide an answer.
For all those asking questions, we would ask you state your name and the organization you represent. We expect the briefing to about 30 minutes in duration. And as one last reminder, as a courtesy to both General Eaton as well as your fellow correspondents, we ask you to turn off your electronic devices, cell phones or pagers.
In addition, I would remind you that General Eaton is the commander of the Iraqi military training program; he's not a political spokesperson, and he's not an operation spokesperson for events occurring in Iraq today. Therefore, we'd ask your policy questions or operational questions you might reserve for different time and more appropriate opportunity to the CPA or to the operational spokesman at his briefing.
Additional, we have Major Ahmed (ph), who currently serves as an operation officer at the CMATT headquarters. Major Ahmed is with us today; attended and completed the initial entry program from August to October 2003. He will be available to answer your questions regarding his training experience and his current duties in the CMATT headquarters.
Okay, with that, we welcome general. Thank you, sir.
GEN. EATON: Thank you, sir. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Glad I'm finally here and I'm happy to tell you that I just spent the better part of the afternoon at the Kirkuk military training base watching the 3rd Battalion and 4th Battalion train; so, fresh from the training base to be able to give you any input that you might want to hear about that. Again, I'm going to give you a prepared statement, I will then embark upon any questions that you have.
Over the past several months, Coalition Military Assistance Training Team, known as CMATT, has been engaged in training the Iraqi army. We are developing forces which are under political control, accountable to the nation, and defensive in capability and intent. Our vision is to man, train, and equip nine infantry brigades, a small coastal defense force, and the beginning of an aviation element to establish the foundation of the Iraqi army run by Iraqis.
I have come to you today about three things. First is the process by which we are recruiting, training and employing the Iraqi army. Second is the benefit an Iraqi force will provide to the Iraqi people. And third and most importantly, we are building the values we expect of a professional military in a democratic society.
The process starts at three main recruiting hubs in Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul. Now, that also represents, as you might predict, the spread of the country and the ethnic distribution. Each class that is recruited is ethnically balanced. This provides an atmosphere where tolerance is essential to mission accomplished. We are looking for those individuals who wish to defend Iraq and its newfound freedom, and are skilled in such professions as truck driver, heavy equipment operator, food service, first aid, and above all else, infantry. A majority of new recruits have prior military service, and nearly all of the non-commissioned officers and officer candidates do as well.
Nearly 1,000 recruits are recruited in order to produce an active battalion of 757 soldiers. Attrition is due to such things as voluntary withdrawal or failure to meet standards. This is not unusual in any army that recruits in a fashion similar to the recruiting that we do here, and speaking from personal experience in the American Army, similar to what we have in the United States.
In order to get the ball rolling, the first four battalions have been trained under a system where officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted men are trained simultaneously but separately. All three groups are then brought together for a three-week period of collective training before the battalion graduates and is sent to its respective garrison base.
Training has focused on an end state that provides an individual soldier who possesses fundamental soldier skills, functions as a member of a multiethnic team, is oriented to military service and service to the Iraqi nation, and is schooled in human rights and the law of land warfare. He also respects others and is physically and mentally prepared to begin service in the Iraqi army.
This training also produces standout leaders who possess fundamental leadership skills, skills with troop-leading procedures, and skills with small-unit tactics and techniques and procedures.
The first battalion graduated on 4 October and is currently based at Kirkuk, and employed by the 4th Infantry Division Mechanized.
The second battalion has been employed by the 1st Armored Division, and they're garrisoned at Taji since their graduation on 6 January, which is also Army Day and celebrated as such since 1921.
And we look forward to the graduation this week of the 3rd Battalion and their subsequent deployment to the Mosul area.
Training the larger force. Based on the premise that a thousand leaders can create an army faster than creating an army a thousand soldiers at a time, we have adopted the same cohort model for recruitment and training that the United States used to gear up for World War II. As World War II began, we were a particularly small army, and we expanded by bringing in the leadership that we had on the active rolls.
The remaining 23 battalions will follow this course of action, where officers and non-commissioned officers will conduct separate courses. They then come together to form the battalion cadre, and will train their own soldiers who will be recruited and brought together en masse to the locations where the garrisons are set. I would like to emphasize here that this will be an Iraqi army trained by Iraqis.
After battalions conduct their initial training, they will start a rotation of collective training or unit training and operational employment. The emphasis for collective training is on conducting tactical movements and practicing operations in both rural and in urban terrain. We currently have more than 1,200 soldiers on duty, and more than 2,500 in training.
In addition to the 27 infantry battalions in the army, we are building the Iraqi Coastal Defense Force and the Iraqi Army Air Corps. The Coastal Defense Force will be comprised of a patrol boat squadron of five 30-meter boats and a naval infantry regiment. The naval infantry is currently training with the Iraqi army for basic skills. This coastal defense force will then move down to the Umm Qasr/Basra area for boat training and where they will learn interdiction and boarding operations in order to protect the some 80 kilometers of Iraqi coastline.
The Iraqi Army Air Corps will focus primarily on troop and logistics movements as well as air medivac for life-threatening and casualty-producing situations. We are currently training both helicopter and transport pilots, and we will field the first operational squadrons this summer. We're also investigating the use of reconnaissance aircraft in order to effectively monitor the miles of Iraqi border, and infrastructure such as pipelines and electrical transmission facilities.
Creating an Iraqi army not only benefits the security of Iraq, but also the economy. In addition to the soldiers, we employ hundreds of Iraqi civilians to build garrisons and provide services. Most contracts pertaining to the Iraqi army are given to Iraqi contractors. This action brings much-needed jobs and future opportunity to our people.
It is also again emphasized that the point of this Iraqi army is built for and by Iraqis. The picture behind me is one of the children of Balad Ruz (ph), a town very close to the Kirkuk training base. Our training team in Kirkuk raised the money through a charity foot march to buy them the requisite soccer balls.
Lastly, I want to briefly discuss our emphasis on the values and the ethos we are striving to forge in the armed forces. This is not the old army. The old army oppressed and terrorized the people, served to defend a tyrannical regime, and emphasized such components of human behavior as greed, selfishness and fear. The Iraqi armed forces of today serve the people, defend the country, and are built on values such as compassion and respect for human rights, selfless service and tolerance of others. This is something that is very easy to transmit to the young men who have chosen this profession.
Another key point of emphasis is the importance of civilian control of the military. In my country, the armed forces have pioneered the integration of cultures and the ability to collectively work for a common goal. As Iraq is reborn, we believe that her armed forces can lead the way in unifying Iraq.
We'll now take your questions.
Q Matthew Rosenberg from the Associated Press. I'm a bit confused; the use of the term "graduated" and then they're "deployed" kind of implies that people are out on patrol acting independently. I was up in Kirkuk about a week and a half ago, two weeks ago, and the 1st Battalion there seemed to be still doing a lot of training. They were up at the company level; they weren't really quite out there operational -- working, patrolling, doing any fighting -- that they were still very much in the training stage, even if they graduated their basic training.
Can you just give us a better idea of where exactly these guys are and when exactly they will be --?
GEN. EATON: You bet.
Q -- actually as a battalion working as part of the coalition?
GEN. EATON: Absolutely. Whenever a unit takes on a mission, if you have time available, you go through what we call a mission rehearsal exercise.
We've just spent a considerable amount of time and national treasure getting the III U.S. Corps ready for employment in Iraq. I would argue that the III U.S. Corps is the best trained, most powerful corps in the world and in the history of warfare. Yet, because we have the time available, Lieutenant General Metz decided that he wanted to put his team through a robust exercise that was conducted by the Battle Command Training Program.
Every division that we have sent over here, we have used and trained in a mission rehearsal exercise. So, for the American Army, if time is available -- and that's if time is available -- you employ that time to buy down operational risk by training for the mission and the environment that you're going into.
General Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when asked about a month and a half ago, about the increase that's on the table that different folks are proposing for increasing the size of the American Army, stated that it takes about two years to build a division. That's in the United States with the robust training network that we have in the United States. We have the finest training facilities I could ever ask for: the National Training Center, the Joint Readiness Training Center. We have a Training and Doctrine Command that does nothing but preparation of units for service to the nation. Two years, he said, to create a division.
What we have done is created a training program whereby we take the young men from Iraq and put them through a two-month training program. Then we take that unit and turn it over to the division that's going to employ that force. That commander does his own assessment of what that battalion needs with respect to training for the operational environment he's in.
The fourth division, located not far from Baqubah, Balad Ruz (ph) and not far from here, has a different operational environment from that which we see in Basra, and certainly different from Mosul. So he tailored a program to prepare this battalion for operational employment in his area. And God bless him because he gave up 10 men to do nothing but work with the battalion commander of the first battalion, a battalion that calls itself the Freedom Battalion, to best prepare these men so that we buy down the risk of operational employment.
Now, the time forecast right now -- some operational employment has already occurred with this unit, and it will expand as we build upon the collective capability of that unit to meet the requirements. So we do have the time available and we do have the resources available to conduct that training, and Major General Odierno has correctly provided the training to help bring that unit online safely and appropriately.
Other questions, please. Yes, sir?
Q Luke Baker from Reuters. So how long do you think it will be before Iraq has its own freestanding army that doesn't have any U.S. military oversight or instruction so that, you know, it really is a freestanding army and the U.S. forces, therefore, can sort of completely withdraw?
GEN. EATON: Okay. A great question and the -- I'm not going to be flippant here, but good, fast and cheap are three terms; you get two out of three. And if you present a terrific amount of money, you're able to bring forces online more quickly. It's resource intensive. And when I say a terrific amount of money, it is extraordinary, the demand on the national treasure to reduce time to prepare a unit.
I mentioned that General Pace, in the operational and training environment of the United States, says two years to create a division.
When you're bringing a force online, you first assess the operational environment: Why do you have an army? And the baseline for an army is to fight and win the nation's wars; here, in this context, to defend the territorial sovereignty of Iraq. This is a tough neighborhood, and three light infantry divisions do not provide, and will not provide the end state defensive requirements for the Iraqi ground forces. It never was intended to be so. It was the basis of systems, and above all else, the basis of the leader ethos, the leadership, the core of the Iraqi army that one day will be prepared to take on alone the defense of this nation.
Depending on who you talk to, you can go between eight and 12 divisions, and within that eight to 12 divisions, between 40 and 60 percent heavy combined-arms capable divisions -- that's tank, infantry fighting vehicle and artillery, backed up by attack helicopter aircraft, lift aircraft, and the wherewithal to secure the air above -- air defense artillery and the interceptor aircraft that you need to defend the skies. An extraordinarily complex affair, and it is expensive.
Now, when you look out at the donor nations and the wherewithal of Iraq to be able to provide the money to purchase the equipment, the money to train the personnel, you're looking at a sizable amount of money that's competing with all the other requirements that we need to do to ensure the viability of the economy here and the lifestyle of the Iraqi citizens.
So, if there was a rush to do this, and you sacrificed the welfare of the citizens of Iraq, and had prodigious contributions from donor nations, my estimate is that the earliest you could produce such a force would be between three and five years. That's a high cost and a high impact on society answer to the question that you posed. As you trade off the dollars, the amount of money required to bring that in, and wish to expand the window, all the while understanding that the coalition is going to have to assure the territorial sovereignty, you open that window to a longer period. In other words, if you wish to expend pure resources upfront, you extend the window a little bit.
So that's a soldier's theoretical construct, and the rest of the question has to be answered by those who direct policy. And those are the -- those are the leaders who will determine how you allocate resources across the spectrum for the nation. So I didn't answer your question specifically with a hard figure. I gave you a soldier's best estimate, unconstrained, how to build a force that will deter, or if deterrence fails defeat, a robust attack against sovereign Iraq.
In the back, please.
STAFF: Sir, we're going to take another question from -- this time from the Pentagon.
GEN. EATON: Okay.
Q General, this is Jim Mannion from Agencie France-Presse. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about what percentage of the soldiers that you're recruiting for this army have previous military experience in the old Iraqi army. How are you selecting your officer candidates, and what is the risk of your creating a force that's infiltrated by Ba'athists or the sort of people that we are fighting against now? Thank you.
GEN. EATON: Thank you, sir.
The first is what percentage. We're running about 60 percent with prior military service. What does "prior military service" mean? If you're a private in the old army, not a whole lot from what we're seeing. The Iraqi officer corps of the old army is a pretty good officer corps in a lot of respects, certainly from the perspective of military training. The non-commissioned officer corps we find deficient, and the soldiers and the training they received we found deficient. So if you say "prior service," it may mean that they know how to march and carry a rifle and employ it, but we have not had terrific results of the former army training base at the young soldier level.
With respect to the officers, the military skill set of the officers, we are finding their education and their ability to learn is very high. And given initial poor experience with those above the rank of major, we have found that focusing on the younger officers, the lieutenants and captains, that these men are well educated, they're talented, they are focused on the future of this country, and we have had very high success.
Now, when we recruit them, we do a database check to cross-check to see if they are in those -- if there's any history of affiliation with Special Republican Guard, the intelligence services, high-level Ba'ath Party, which is not typical for lieutenants and captains; and we do that vetting process. We conduct interviews individually, and we also go through a pretty exhaustive questionnaire that we go through for our officers. Those officers then go through either the officer training in Kirkuk Military Training Base on the officer track -- and it's competitive. They come in without knowing how they're going to -- whether or not they're going to graduate, because it's a competitive basis, and it's assessed-training throughout. And it is also a competitive selection. We pick the best to be the senior men in the battalion construct, the battalion commander, company commanders.
Now, the other means of producing officers -- and this question may come up -- is the Jordan Training Initiative that we brought -- again same recruiting process. And we put these officers through a nine-day vetting period of our own at Taji Base. And each went through the medical and physical tests again, and each went through an interview process, and during the course of exercises were assessed on their ability to operate within the context of the multiethnic group and their leader skills. That was a comprehensive assessment phase as we inducted them en route to training for a two-and-a-half-month training period in Jordan.
Your third question. The risk of infiltration is always there. Our systems are not perfect. Yet we are very attentive to capturing upfront those we do not want in the Iraqi army. Should we fail in the upfront analysis, we have subsequent gates where we have assessments and feedback within the training period. And we have discovered that occasionally we have questionable people; they generally take themselves out. I am unaware to date of a successful infiltration where we have had to take action on our part to discharge a soldier because of questionable loyalty to the Iraqi people.
Next question, please. In the back. Sir?
Q Obviously -- Gavin Moss (sp) from CNN. Sorry. But, obviously, recruiting and training is one thing; equipping must be a much more long-term and vastly expensive procedure. What are you doing to equip any new Iraqi army? And does that process involve taking back armaments and facilities, and things like that that were stolen, went missing, you know, in the last few months?
GEN. EATON: Thank you.
The equipping piece, the first four battalions, given the speed with which we had to operate and the ability of industry to respond, was largely off the shelf. And we put out what we call a request for proposal, and we outlined the requirements.
When you speak in terms -- and part of the reason that we went light motorized infantry is that is the organization that is most training-intensive and the least equipment-intensive of any military unit. Essentially, large and small transport, and direct-fire weapons is the focus, and individual equipment.
So, the end state for the soldier was a uniformed soldier with body armor, helmet, rifle, fire-control systems, night-vision equipment, and a motorized transport to move that soldier for employment; so that that soldier is capable of operating day and night in an operational context.
Now, logistically, we have elected to start, because of costs, to go a civilian-operated LOGCAP. And it's not a U.S. company, it is a local Iraqi company providing the LOGCAP for the first four battalions, and that organization provides for the logistics support of the unit in question.
When you start going beyond light motorized infantry, you then get into the arena of truly expensive equipment. And we are looking, quite frankly, at a full spectrum. There are companies that will take a T-55 or a T-62 or T-72 and turn it into a pretty high-performing, modern piece of equipment. And that's a lot cheaper than an M1 tank. You take an M-60 series tank, which is the U.S. last generation, and put a 120-millimeter cannon on it, modern fire control stabilization system, that's somewhat more expensive, but it's still cheaper than an M1 tank. And then you start talking M1-type armor. And as an infantryman who spends a lot of time looking at tanks out of self- interest, that captures kind of the spectrum of modern or modernized equipment. There is equipment in Iraq that has been heavily stripped, and our observations are there is not much left that will be serviceable today for employment. So we're talking buying new equipment or we're talking about buying equipment or recovering existing hulls and putting those hulls through a refit, refurbishment, upgrade and modernization.
So T-55 completely upgraded: a million dollars. T-55 is a 45- to 50-year-old tank, but after you put the cannon on it that will shoot modern munitions, and fire control systems, day/night, second- generation forward-looking infrared, and a new suspension system and engine and drive train kit, it's a million dollars. If you're talking about the M1, I think Australia just made a purchase of a couple of battalions. You can check the price. I think they paid something on the order of $600 million for it. So again, you're right, it's an expensive process, and we are working with Iraqi officers and with advisors to conclude best approach, best value for a high-performing, combined-arms-capable army.
That does not address the air force. There it's equipment intensive and extremely expensive. And the air force, the Army Air Corps that we're pursuing -- one of the great costs associated with any air force is the training of its pilots. And we are bringing in the well-trained pilots of the former Iraqi air force to create the pool and create the systems whereby we can begin the structure to accept interceptor aircraft and aircraft that can perform a close-air- support role for an army that will defend the territory of Iraq. Those are decisions that will be rendered downstream.
That's a long answer to a short question, but it's a complicated question. Question in the back, please.
Q I'm Steve Franklin, Chicago Tribune. Based upon your earlier answer, is it correct to assume, then, that given the current construct, that the coalition force will have to remain here at least five years to defend Iraq's borders? And if that's true, then what size of coalition force will have to remain?
GEN. EATON: Sir, you can appreciate that there's a lot of policy in that question, and I defer to my senior leadership to address that. So I really couldn't comment on the size of the coalition.
I will couch it in terms of -- if you'll forgive me -- the geopolitical context. Switzerland has a very small-armed force, and nobody's attacked it ever. We had the most heavily fortified border in the history of mankind along the inter-German border for 50 years, with terrific national treasure on either side of the border to defend it.
You buy down risk by anything from alliances, to understandings, to the promises of support. So in no way does my best, most optimistic assessment of a capable eight-to-12 division ground force; unknown, two- to three- to four-wing air force, in no way does that state that a coalition needs to stay on the ground to effect it. The coalition is able to influence -- as it will influence -- neighbors by the means established by policy.
So, when I say it takes that long to build it, that's not a reflective that's how long we have to stay here in this country.
(To staff) Pentagon, did you say?
Okay, I defer -- take one from the Pentagon.
Q General Eaton, this is Sandra Erwin with National Defense. I was wondering if you could talk about the trainers, who are the trainers. You said the Iraqi army will be trained by Iraqis. But currently, are the trainers Iraqis? Are they Americans? Do you have contractors as well?
GEN. EATON: Thank you, Sandra.
The trainers that we have right now are a mix of the Vinnell contract, which is a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, and they have other contract trainers with them; Vinnell is the umbrella organization; and in fact, talking to the program manager today, a terrific amount of combat experience, of training experience. The average time in service for those men who are working with the Vinnell contract is 19.8 years. And those are the men who started the program because they are the men who could react the fastest. They deployed within 25 days of contract signing into theater to establish a training environment. They provided the structure and the primary instructor and the initial drill sergeant contact. We added to that uniformed men from the coalition. Australia, Great Britain, the United States, and more recently Spain have contributed to that environment.
Finally, after the graduation of the first battalion, Iraqi trainers -- men who -- that we saw high talent in, in training and particularly those who were multilingual -- we were able to bring Iraqi officers and non-commissioned officers from the first battalion and integrate them into the training pool for the second and third and fourth battalions. That has been particularly effective. We have also taken a lot of those Iraqi officers, and they have, like Major Ahmed (ph) here, have integrated into our training organization and are, in fact, part of the joint headquarters that will be the higher headquarters for Iraqi armed forces.
Finally, I alluded to the Jordan Training Initiative. We have the -- a number of officers today training with Jordanian armed forces and will continue to do so into the middle of March.
Questions here? Yes.
Q Jane Muffy (ph) from the AFP. Are there any problems in adhering to the correct ethnic balance in the makeup of the number of recruits for the army at all?
GEN. EATON: That -- the short answer is we have met our objectives across the board and we have had zero problems in achieving those objectives. And we have not had really to recruit particularly heavily. We process young men who come through the doors of the recruiting stations, and we have many more who would like to join than we have immediate training seats and battalion seats available for them. So we have been very faithful in the Governing Council's intent and the focus in ensuring that the Iraqi armed forces, and the Iraqi army in particular, meet the ethnic and religious representation of this country.
Q I know attrition was a problem with the first battalion; about half left. Has this problem been solved? Is attrition still a problem? Are people literally getting up and leaving, saying the pay's not worth it, they don't want to be in it? Has the attrition rate declined with the second, third and fourth battalions?
And also, are there concerns about -- this is a second question -- are there any concerns about the ethnic makeup of the army? I saw this staff meeting of the first battalion. You know, you had Kurdish officers speaking to each other in Kurdish. The Sunnis were speaking with the Sunnis. The Shi'ites were speaking with the Shi'ites. At one point, the U.S. officer training them had to intervene and tell them to all start talking to each other, and this is only a few weeks ago. I mean, how can you overcome this -- these divisions that have -- especially the Kurds, that have gone back at least a decade where they have had their own force?
GEN. EATON: You bet. First, the attrition. The first battalion enlisted without knowing how much we were going to pay them. Now, that's an interesting bet. Ordinarily, when you commit to something as serious as going to Kirkuk Military Training Base -- and if you haven't been there, particularly in the middle of August, you're missing a real treat. So I invite everybody in the middle of August to go out and see what the first battalion when through. You leave your rifle on the ground too long and you can't pick it up without gloves. It's a special kind of environment.
So, if you enlist on faith -- and they did -- the CPA went through an exhaustive analysis of what the right pay schedule was going to be for all government forces -- I'm sorry, all government employees: the police, civil servants in ministries, the armed forces, border patrol, and so forth. And all that was conducted through the month of August. As you've watched this economy strengthen and watched a little bit of the inflation kick in, particularly the price of housing, we wound up in a situation where our pay scales were too low, particularly for the armed forces who deploy from home, away from their families, and are now in the relatively austere environment of Kirkuk, and literally could not make ends meet with their families. They did not enlist to have a poor standard of living.
As the United States -- and my colleagues in Great Britain shared with me -- in the 1980s, the United States Armed Forces, a volunteer force, went through a radical increase in pay because we could not retain our soldiers, airmen, Navy, Marines because of -- we couldn't compete with industry. We had to radically increase the paychecks of the U.S. Armed Forces in order to retain our soldiers. So it is with any volunteer armed force.
This is a voluntary event. Patriotism counts a lot, and if you want an all-volunteer force -- and I absolutely support that for any nation -- it is something that you have to meet the financial obligations of the government to those citizens who determine that they are going to protect the country.
Now, we believe that we have solved that with a substantial increase in the hazardous duty allowance, and that has not been a problem.
Any attrition that we have right now is in the normal attrition category that we see. Not every 18-year-old knows exactly what he wants to do. And we have a number of young men who enter in the armed forces and discover on Sand Hill at Fort Benning, Georgia, where I come from, that it wasn't such a good idea after all, and they'd like to be discharged. So it is with -- what I consider to be a normal percentage of Iraqi soldiers who elect to leave training and leave the Iraqi army.
One of the things that is working very much to counteract that is that we treat our soldiers in the United States with a terrific amount of dignity. And what the Iraqi soldiers, particularly those who find -- who have prior service find, that they are being treated with extraordinary dignity compared to the chain of commands of yore, of the previous army. And they will tell you if you ask them, particularly those with prior service, how are you being treated by your officers, how are you being treated by your non-commissioned officers, and the training environment -- I give it to you to engage with these men. It's a good news story.
The second part. Forgive me, I forgot the second part.
Q The ethnic balance.
GEN. EATON: The ethnic balance, okay.
Q The idea molding these people together, and they don't always seem to be getting along.
GEN. EATON: The -- when you consider putting Kurds and Arabs in a squad where language is an issue, the fact that it is working as well as it is I find extraordinary.
We in the United States have gone down this path a long time ago. When we integrated racially, the only difference was skin color. It wasn't cultural. Some cultural, but essentially it was skin color. It was -- we spoke the same language and we came from the same towns. And that was a bit of a -- a bit of a change for the American society, and it was also the vanguard of the integration of the races. It was the start of what would be more or less difficult over time, to achieve greater harmony. There's always work to be done, but greater harmony.
We 12 years ago had a substantial series of attacks against Kurdistan from an Arab-dominated army. That's pretty fresh in everybody's mind. These men -- these Kurds are severing side by side with Arabs, and if they have a tendency to talk to each other in Kurd and that they have a tendency to see each other on a similar cultural basis, perfectly normal. You see it in the American Army today, and nobody will tell you that we've got terrific racial problems because you have a congregation of one race or the other.
So it's not perfect, but it's going pretty darn well and they are working their way through. And it's not an accident that the senior leadership is distributed across the ethnicities within the context of a competitive environment so that they weigh in to assure that the collegiality of this military unit stays intact.
So, we've established the beginnings of an integration of volunteers who have elected to serve side by side with each other. So we're bringing men who have come from the north and from either the KDP or the PUK, and some who are without military service in the peshmerga, and they are soldiering side by side with men who have had military experience in more southern units. So, it's not perfect, and it's going to be interactive.
And if you go to Belgium and take a look at the Walloons and the "Flamand" you'll see force integration there. And all you have to do is get on one side or the other to hear jokes about the other side. Now that's Belgium, and they've been doing it for a long time.
GEN. EATON: In the back, please.
Q General, what is a normal percentage of attrition that you refer to?
GEN. EATON: I was afraid somebody was going to ask me that. And what I consider to be normal is completely societal-dependent, and the factors are such that it's very hard to measure. What we're talking about, we kind of expected -- the pessimists thought, as you introduce a volunteer force, that you're going to hit 50 percent attrition. That's a volunteer force. The horror stories and the dire predictions of failure in 1973, when the United States Army went all volunteer, and my platoon, when I stepped into active duty, was one of the first all-volunteer platoons, that it was going to be horrific, I ran about a 25 percent attrition in that unit. That attrition went down over time in the United States. So it's -- it is an apples and oranges event. I am pleasantly surprised by a 20 (percent) to 25 percent attrition, and I expect that to go down over time, as the volunteer nature of this force becomes a matter of cultural norm in this country. And different European countries are going through the same event as they shift from a conscript force to an all-volunteer force.
We're going to the Pentagon?
STAFF: Sir, yes. We're going to the Pentagon now.
GEN. EATON: Okay.
Q Good afternoon, sir. This is Sandra Jontz with Stars and Stripes. I'm going to try to sneak in two here. What is the pay range, if you could, for both the enlisted corps as well as the officer corps? And keeping in mind the cultural difference from the United States, will you be creating positions for women in order to enlist in the military there, and is there any cultural interest from the women there to become -- to join the military?
GEN. EATON: Well, thank you very much.
The pay range, we were looking at originally 60 (dollars) to $180. It's now about 120 (dollars) to $240 a month. And in this economy, it's -- again, it's -- what that means in the United States is very different to what it means here in Iraq as far as buying power goes.
With respect to women in the army, I married a soldier who is convinced that women ought to be in the infantry. So just to kind of give you where I live -- I don't agree with that. There are skills that I still believe are outside of the societal norms for the United States to bring women into certain skill sets: tanks, infantry squads, gun crews. But I know you're not talking about the United States, so we will talk about Iraq.
We are in a multiethnic society here. When I was first asked that question, my response was, "I train infantry. All we need are men for the infantry; Q.E.D., we don't recruit women." As we shift from the requirements for infantry alone and start looking at the needs of the Iraqi armed forces, and if you start looking at the economy improving and a dwindling -- a dwindling recruit pool, it would be perhaps a mistake to dismiss one-half of the population.
Now in the context of Shi'a-Sunni, in the context of Arab-Kurd, what place is available for women in the army? The former Iraqi army had women in clerical roles and in medical roles. When I take a look at other armies in the region -- and we've started to look -- in Iran, there are large numbers of women involved. And notably, one bit of information that we got from Iran had an all-female unit looking particularly militant, in -- carrying rifles and in formation.
When you look into Jordan, there is an initiative to bring women into the military police, military intelligence, into the medical field and into clerical positions.
If you have a military police that is going to engage with the population, it is useful to have women dealing with women in that context. So it's very helpful. If you're an American military police unit and that unit needs to negotiate with a female in whatever environment, we are happy to have female military policemen to take on that role.
To have women involved in the analytical functions of military police, of military intelligence; to have women involved in the medical field and women involved in the clerical functions of an army and the administrative functions in the army, Eaton seems to feel that that is appropriate in his own armed forces and, within the societal norms of Iraq, something that we should consider as we build this army.
Questions locally? (Pause.) Anything from Washington, D.C.?
STAFF: No, sir.
GEN. EATON: Okay. In that case, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your attention. Have a good rest of your day.
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