U.S. Troops Faced Tough Combat Challenge in Fallujah
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2004 American Marines and soldiers who fought in Fallujah faced the toughest warfare possible and did magnificently, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Nov. 23.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers told Greta Van Susteren on the Fox News Channel that the Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen did very well in the urban- warfare environment in the embattled Iraqi city.
He said the troops are working well with Iraqi allies. The chairman said the Iraqi forces that fought against insurgents in Fallujah did very well. This bodes well for the future of the country, he said.
Myers said the Iraqi security forces are up to about 115,000 fully trained and fully equipped police, soldiers and National Guardsmen. "That part is going along very well," the chairman said. He said much of the credit goes to Army Gen. George Casey, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, and Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq.
But developing senior leaders is another aspect that has to take place, he said. "If you want a force to be effective, if you want to have loyalty, if you want them to focus on a mission, if you want to prevent desertions and build esprit de corps, then you need leadership. And that's the part the Iraqi government has to help with, and they are doing that," he said.
That is a slower process. Developing senior leaders with those leadership capabilities does not occur overnight. Army officials said it takes 15 years to train a battalion commander and 20 to train a brigade commander in the United States.
"(The Iraqis) are not starting from zero," said an Army spokesman. "They have some officers and policemen who had experience in the past that weren't corrupted by the Saddam Hussein regime."
Still, this process takes time. At the beginning of November, senior Iraqi leaders traveled to Norway for training under NATO auspices. Other NATO training centers will also host training seminars.
NATO itself will begin training leaders in Iraq shortly, said Marine Gen. James Jones, the supreme allied commander, Europe.
Myers told Van Susteren that Iraqi troops have been "embedded" with U.S. units and U.S. troops have advised Iraqi units. In both situations, the working relationship has been good, he said. Myers, who made a whirlwind visit to Iraq Nov. 14-15, said that in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Iraqi units are indistinguishable from the Marines. "They sweat together; they spill their blood together; and they take care of one another," he said.
Myers said the Iraqi security forces have been the primary target of insurgents, yet Iraqis continue to enlist to serve the "new Iraq."
Commanders in Iraq continually evaluate if they have enough troops to accomplish the mission, and if commanders need troops they will get them, the chairman said. Right now, with operations in Fallujah winding down, commanders are evaluating where the troops will deploy in order to protect the election process now set for Jan. 30.
Myers also urged Americans to point their Web browsers to DoD's new "America Supports You" site. Launched Nov. 19, the site is a compilation of stories on how Americans support U.S. forces. He said Americans who want to do something for the troops should go to the site to get ideas.
And the troops need the encouragement, Myers said. The hardest thing about Iraq is the harsh environment and insurgent threat. But U.S. troops also miss their families.
"One soldier I met has a 6-month-old baby son waiting for him," Myers said. "He keeps up via e-mail and such, but it's not like being there, holding those little ones."
But even with these challenges, the servicemen and women in Iraq are dedicated to finishing the mission, Myers said. They have a bounce in their steps that shows they are motivated and charged up, he said.