Myers Visits Italian Coalition Members in Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
TALLIL, Iraq, Apr. 14, 2004 A visit with foreign members of the coalition force in Iraq was the first stop for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff here today.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers visited with Italian members of the Multinational Division Southeast. Italian Brig. Gen. Gian Marco Chiarini, the commander of the 132nd "Ariete" Brigade briefed the American officer and his staff.
The brigade, which is a mix of regular army and police, patrols the area in and around Nasiriyah. There are 2,900 Italian troops and also 600 Romanian and Portuguese soldiers in the unit.
The brigade is based outside Tallil air field and named its area Camp Mittica after a World War II hero of the brigade. The unit has conducted 1,200 patrols and arrested 168 individuals.
The brigade was involved in some of the violence sparked by extremist Shiia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. On April 6, Sadr's militia took the three bridges in Nasiriyah that gave the U.S. Marines such a problem in 2003. The Italian unit took to the street and took back the bridges. Italian army Capt. Luigi Paolo Scollo led the unit that took back the bridges. He told Myers that three rocket-propelled grenades hit his armored personnel carriers as the unit fought for the bridges, but that two were duds.
"You were very lucky," Myers said to the captain. "But you were also very professional in capitalizing on that luck."
Myers noted that the coalition has confiscated thousands and thousands of RPGs since coming into Iraq. "Everybody in Iraq must have an RPG," Myers said.
"I think it must be a wedding gift," the captain joked.
American Air Force and Army units are based at Tallil, although the number has dropped since the logistics center moved to Balad. In addition, there is a South Korean and Dutch contingent on the base.
During the meeting, Myers told the Italians that he appreciated them being in Iraq. "By all reports, your performance has been outstanding," Myers said. "Your performance has been absolutely up to the challenge."
An Italian officer said that years of working with the American Army in NATO exercises and in operations in the former Yugoslavia have made things much easier. "We all know how we work together," he said. "We've done it in training. We don't have to learn how to work together in combat."