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Chairman Thanks Central America for Anti-terror Help

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, Aug. 14, 2003 – Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers concluded a whirlwind tour of Central America by thanking the people of the Dominican Republic for their contribution to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Soldiers from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic left their respective countries Aug. 12. They will meet up with members of the Spanish brigade in Spain, where they will train with that group and then deploy to Kuwait for more training as part of the Polish-led division. On Sept. 1, the division is expected to cross into Iraq.

The division will be based around Najaf, Iraq, and will replace the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. The Central American countries are just four of about 40 countries that have committed to deploy troops to Iraq or to provide other military assets. Still other countries are providing economic or humanitarian help to the effort, Myers said.

The United States will pay to airlift the troops to Iraq and will provide logistics in-country support. The four Central American countries have made a year-long commitment to the effort. Their soldiers, however, will spend six- month tours in Iraq.

The troops will go to Iraq to assist in the reconstruction "and in many cases the construction" of the area. "Their arrival will help give the Iraqi people real hope for the future," Myers said during a press conference following a meeting with Dominican President Rafael Hipolito Mejia Dominguez.

Myers stopped in Nicaragua and El Salvador Aug. 12 and traveled via helicopter to Honduras and the Dominican Republic Aug. 13. In Honduras he took the time to stop at Soto Cano Air Base and visited with American service members stationed with Joint Task Force Bravo. He started the trip in Colombia Aug. 11 where he spoke with Colombian leaders on the war against narcoterror.

Myers thanked the leadership and people in each country and discussed areas of concern to the United States and its allies. In El Salvador, Myers said the 360-man special operations forces unit was "well-trained, well-led and ready."

Nicaragua has sent 115 men off to Iraq. The second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Nicaragua still wanted to play a constructive role, said U.S. Embassy officials.

Honduras sent a 360-man infantry and military police unit.

Some 360 Dominican soldiers departed Aug. 12. Myers praised the soldiers and reminded people that the United States and the Dominican Republic have been strong allies. He said the militaries have "conducted joint training and exercises and together we are working to defeat terrorism and narcoterrorism."

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