Myers Visits 1st Armored Division Families in Germany
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WIESBADEN, Germany, Jun. 7, 2004 "The first casualties after the extension were the hardest to bear," a 1st Armored Division spouse said. "But we all pulled together."
Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers speaks
to 1st Armored Division spouses during a visit to Baumholder, Germany, June 7.
The division is deployed to Iraq. Photo by Jim Garamone
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The spouse had attended a talk with Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers at Baumholder a large U.S. post located near here. The post is the home base for the 1st Armored Division's 2nd Brigade and Division Artillery. The troops are part of the coalition force in Iraq. In April, DoD officials extended their deployment in Iraq by 90 days.
Myers, accompanied by his wife Mary Jo, thanked the spouses for their sacrifices and explained why it was so important for the division to remain in Iraq beyond their one-year "boots-on-the-ground" deployment. He asked them to remember what was happening in Iraq at the time of the extension decision. There were attacks in Fallujah, and renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr fomented unrest in Shia areas with his illegal militia.
U.S. Central Command chief Army Gen. John Abizaid determined he needed more troops. The 1st Armored Division and the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment were extended.
"Thank God for the 1st Armored Division, Myers told spouses here. "They've calmed things down quite a bit."
The division has been involved in calming the areas around Najaf and Karbala. The 90-day extension has allowed coalition commanders in Iraq to maintain a strategic reserve able to go where needed quickly, Myers said. The division also helped cover some of the shortfall when Spanish troops pulled out of the coalition in Iraq in May.
Myers said he realizes the sacrifices being made by the service members. But he and his wife also recognize the sacrifices being made by families. "We're here to tell you how much we care about your service and we thank you for what you are doing," said Mary Jo Myers to spouses here. "We know you have been through some really challenging times."
In Baumholder, Mrs. Myers told the spouses, "I have no panaceas, just keep putting one foot ahead of the other." She said she was proud to be one of them, and praised them for the support networks they have developed during the deployment.
The chairman took questions from the spouses. Most wanted to know whether the division would be extended in Iraq again. He said it would take extraordinary events in Iraq before he would bring that recommendation to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. He told the spouses that the decision to extend the division was a tough one, but given the events in the country, it was unavoidable.
Myers said the future deployments to Iraq also depend on events in the country. He said the U.N. Security Council may pass a new Iraq resolution as early as June 8. The resolution may mean more countries will participate in peacekeeping activities in the country.
The new Iraqi government is also up and working, and will assume sovereignty June 30. Leaders in the government have said they need coalition forces for the foreseeable future. But the coalition is training and equipping Iraqi security forces that will ultimately assume responsibility for security in the country.
But for the immediate future, the United States will maintain 135,000 service members in Iraq. He told the spouses that the Army is seeking a break of at least as long as the deployment itself.
"We have to be careful about deployments," he told the spouses in Baumholder. If troops and families deploy once, "you can gut it out," he said. But if the troops and families deploy again and again "it will start to wear on everyone."
Myers said no one wants a "hollow force" two or three years in the future.
At a press conference following the visits, he said the families impressed him with their strength. "When troops are deployed, when they are being wounded, when they are being killed, it's tough," he said. "The families that are left behind are an important part of the network that supports one another. What impressed me was their resolve. They understand, like the military members, how important this deployment is."