'Screaming Eagles' Brigade Commander Praises Troop Conduct
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2003 Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade are "doing a better than great" job providing security across northern and western Iraq, the brigade's commander said today.
Speaking to reporters from Iraq via a video teleconference hookup at the Pentagon, Army Col. Michael Linnington said his soldiers understand their mission and their morale is high as they carry out stabilization operations in and around Mosul and along the Turkish and Syrian borders.
"I'm privileged to lead some of the greatest soldiers in the world - America's finest - sons and daughters that are indeed our nation's most precious resource," Linnington said.
The infantry colonel observed that his troops are performing their duties under "tough, sometimes dangerous, and complex conditions that most of us wouldn't have imagined just a few short months ago."
Linnington said his soldiers are performing their duties "willingly, without complaint, and to a high standard, despite extremes in conditions that would paralyze the average human being."
The colonel noted that the 101st has been operating out of northern Iraq since mid-April, having crossed the Kuwaiti border March 21 and covering 1,200 kilometers "fighting in five major cities" during the major combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The "Screaming Eagles" now reside in an agricultural area along the Tigris River "centered on the northern city of Mosul," Linnington said.
The 3rd Brigade, Linnington noted, operates "in the far western portion" of the 101st's area of responsibility. He said his unit's operations encompass 15,000 square kilometers of mostly farmland, including 220 kilometers along the Iraqi- Syrian border.
There are still remnants of Saddam Hussein loyalists and other insurgents operating in the 3rd Brigade's area, Linnington said. In the past two weeks, he said, the 101st has lost six soldiers to enemy action, including two 3rd Brigade soldiers killed by rocket-propelled grenade attacks.
Linnington said his troops remain watchful for any additional enemy assaults, while always keeping "the initiative in disrupting enemy forces that want to disrupt the stability of northern Iraq or threaten the lives and welfare of American soldiers."
Security, the colonel declared, "is our number-one priority."
Linnington said his soldiers control two border crossing points, one with Syria and the other with Turkey. He said his troops also guard access to Iraq's Freedom Dam on the Tigris River northwest of Mosul, which provides irrigation and drinking water for farmers and residents in the region.
He described his area of operations as "a mosaic" of ethnicity that includes Turkomen, Arabs, Kurds, Christians, and other groups, that's "not unlike what we have in many large cities across America."
Many successes have been achieved throughout his region in recent months, Linnington pointed out, noting the establishment of "an effective and efficient" working government in Mosul. District elections have been held in many of the larger sub-districts, he added, with many more slated in coming weeks.
Multi-ethnic Iraqi police and security forces have recently been trained, Linnington noted. While in the West, coalition forces are training a new Iraqi border force "that will help create a safe and secure environment."
Trade with Syria and Iraq has been opened, he said, and sales of weapons in local marketplaces have been discouraged and broken up.
U.S. and coalition security and stabilization efforts within northern Iraq have caused an influx of foreign investment, including a $14 million package to renovate a major Mosul hotel to stimulate regional business and tourism, the colonel said.
The 101st Division, he added, "has poured over $11 million into repairs of infrastructure, banks, schools, police stations, hospitals, medical clinics" and irrigation and water projects. Courthouses and telecommunications sites, he pointed out, have also benefited from the influx of funds.
Summing up, Linnington said the "Screaming Eagles" are "working hard across the board to improve the quality of life of the average Iraqi citizen."
"It's encouraging to see our newly-elected (Iraqi) officials not only endorsing our efforts, but helping us identify the areas of need where our programs can be best targeted," the colonel said.