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Commander Says Quality of Life Improving for Troops in Iraq

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2003 – U.S. soldiers in Iraq are focused, dedicated and committed to accomplishing their mission, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez told reporters in Baghdad this week.

"They know what is expected of them," the commander of the coalition force said at a news briefing Oct. 22.

Maintaining troop morale is a leadership responsibility, Sanchez said. Military leaders must do the best they can with the resources allocated to ensure the best quality of life possible is available to the soldiers.

"We have to be able to sustain the morale of our force, especially in this kind of a tough environment," he said.

Soldiers are "expected to complain," the general added. "That's what soldiers do, depending on their environments."

The quality of life levels for U.S. troops in Iraq are "drastically different," he said. "And all of that has an impact on what a soldier feels and what he sees and what he does and what he says."

Overall, quality of life has improved tremendously, he said, and is far better than what existed in the mid-summer time frame.

"When I look at what our soldiers are telling us," Sanchez said, "and I look at our retention rates across the force that is deployed today, I think that's a pretty darn good indicator of what our soldiers feel."

Of all the corps in the Army, he said, 5th Corps has the highest re-enlistment rate. The 1st Armored Division was over 130 percent in its re-enlistment rate. The 101st Airborne Division was over 120 percent in its re-enlistment rates across the board. The 82nd Airborne Division and 4th Infantry Division had 120 and 140 percent retention, respectively.

"So when you talk about what are the soldiers feeling, what are they saying, how are the conditions," the commander said, "all that has to be factored into morale. In the end, it's about their dedication, it's about their understanding that their leadership is taking care of them, and I think their leadership is taking care of them. And so my statement to you on morale is that it's very good and it will continue to be so."

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