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Troop Morale High as Iraq Sovereignty Transfer Nears

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2004 – Morale is high among U.S. service members in Iraq as the June 30 transfer of sovereignty approaches, the coalition's deputy operations director said June 23.

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt spoke from Baghdad with Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sean Lehman on The Pentagon Channel's "Studio 5" program. He said he sees evidence every day that American service members' spirits are high, both inside and outside the heavily fortified "Green Zone" where coalition headquarters is located.

The general attributed the high morale to U.S. service members having a focused mission and seeing the results of what they're doing in Iraq. "They also know that they've got the support of their friends and families back home, they've got the support of the United States Congress, and they know they've got the support of the American people and the president of the United States," Kimmitt added.

Despite continued violence in Iraq, morale will stay high as long as leaders continue to talk with their people daily to make sure they understand their mission, and as long as service members in Iraq are able to communicate with friends and families back home, the general said.

U.S. service members are accomplishing much more than military objectives in Iraq, Kimmitt said. "They've contributed to the rebuilding of over 3,600 schools, there are more health clinics here than there were pre-war, and much more money is being spent in those health clinics than pre-war."

Electrical power continues to be restored, and more Iraqi oil is being pumped now than before the war, the general said.

"So these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are over here trying to establish the foundation for a country that has a tremendous amount of promise the promise that has been denied for them for the last 35 years under the dictatorship of Saddam and they're helping to fulfill that promise both with their combat tasks and their stability operations that they conduct every day," Kimmitt said.

As they interact with Iraqi children, Kimmitt said, American service members become aware of how important their mission is. "They realize that what they're doing over here is going to make that child's life better," he said. "They understand that what they are doing over here is going to allow that child to live in peace and in freedom, and enjoying the same rights that they enjoy as Americans."

Kimmitt said the transfer of sovereignty won't change coalition operations dramatically. "We will continue to do what we need to do to maintain a safe and secure environment," he said. "We will continue to work with our Iraqi security partners not only in training and equipping and fielding them, but also fighting with them side-by-side."

Coalition officials have been saying for about six months that as the sovereignty transfer drew closer, enemies of a free and stable would do everything they could to prevent it from happening, Kimmitt said. The predicted acts of violence have been taking place, and probably will continue beyond the transfer, he added. But, the general said, he doesn't expect the violence to affect recruiting and training of Iraqi security forces.

Kimmitt said while individual service members may see their personal contributions in Iraq as small, their work is anything but insignificant. "They are setting a path towards democracy and peace in the Middle East," he said. "They're part of something big." When they leave Iraq, Kimmitt said, service members will be able to take a good look at what they've accomplished and realize how important it was and how well they did their part.

"They're going to realize as they look from the outside looking in," he said, "that they've been part of something that's been very, very important, and something that's going to be historical."

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