Troops' Terror War Contributions 'Unbelievable,' Sanchez Says
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2004 As commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7 in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez saw the contributions of the soldiers in Iraq firsthand during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Their dedication to democratic principles and to getting the job done drew great praise from him.
"I think that's something that history will record, the unbelievable accomplishments of the American military and the coalition during the first 13 or 14 months of Operation Iraqi Freedom," Sanchez said Sept. 16 during a Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service interview.
The military was, Sanchez said, able to take a country that was totally defeated and stand up its political structures, begin the economic revitalization of the country, and bring freedom to the people while eliminating a brutal regime that had been terrorizing the country for more than 30 years.
Though the insurgency is still strong, the military has been able to bring some sort of security to the country, and the people are grateful for it, said Sanchez, who commands Army 5th Corps, based in Heidelberg, Germany. "That's what cannot be lost in all of what is happening still today in that country," Sanchez said.
"The fact that there is an interim government today in Iraq is a significant accomplishment. As challenged as it is and given the security challenges that are faced there, that country is still better off than being under the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein," he said.
Sanchez credited successes to the qualities possessed by the men and women of the American armed forces.
"Unquestionably, it's their dedication to our democratic principles. It's their courage, their discipline," he said. "When you look at the performance or our servicemembers over my period of command over CJTF 7, there's no question that 99.99 percent of them served with honor and integrity and discipline and respected the Iraqi people. And, more importantly, they were benevolent victors in battle. And those are the values that we live by."
While many servicemembers are in-theater fighting terrorism, those in the rear detachments are providing support that allows those on the front lines some peace of mind. That rear detachment commander back at any installation inside or outside the continental United States is vital to the readiness of the formation that is engaged in battle, Sanchez said.
He added that while they may not be physically in-country facing the enemy, it was crucial to his formations to know that the rear detachments were keeping things going.
During his CJTF 7 command, Sanchez saw many hard-fought victories in Iraq. Perhaps one of the most publicized was the nabbing of the Ace of Spades on the coalition's most-wanted list.
"Clearly our biggest success was the capture of Saddam Hussein. That was a very special time in our operation," Sanchez said.
He was also privy to a unique view of what life was like for the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein. That struck a deep chord.
"It was the suffering of the Iraqi people, the tremendous disparity between the haves and the have-nots," Sanchez noted. "When you see young children that are living in garbage dumps with dogs, that gives you an indication of the brutality of the regime.
"When you listen to Iraqis talk to you about the suffering of their people and their families as the regime carried out its policies, it lets you know, first of all me as a leader and then the average soldier on the ground, that what they're doing is right. It's a mission that we can't walk away from."
Sanchez praised the troops and all Americans for their unwavering dedication and sacrifice in the global war on terror. The contributions they have made have benefited not only the people of Iraq, but also the region and the international community, he said.
"The performance of our servicemembers in the Iraq theater of operations during my period in command was amazing. It is something that America has to be proud of," Sanchez said. "The sacrifices are appreciated by the Department of Defense and the Army. It was the right thing. All of the country is committed to our success I believe. And it must be. We cannot falter."