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Chairman Visits Troops at 'Tip of the Spear' in Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BALAD, Iraq, July 28, 2003 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited the "pointy end of the spear" in Iraq July 27.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers spoke with the infantrymen of the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division.

Balad is ground zero for Baath Party sentiment in Iraq. About 80 percent of the attacks against coalition forces occur in this triangle area formed by Baghdad, Tikrit and Ar Ramadi. For example, three 4th Infantry soldiers were killed and four were wounded as they guarded a children's hospital in Baqubah July 26, about 40 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Following his meetings with leaders and troops, Myers said they energized him. "I spent an incredible afternoon here," he noted.

He said that he wanted to spend more time in the area, but the press of business makes that impossible. "I'd like to spend a week going out on patrols," he said. "Not that you'd let me, but it's good to know what our young troops are doing and how they react."

Myers said the soldiers he spoke with understood the mission, understood why they were in Iraq and understood the greater mission in which the war on Iraq is just a part.

The Joint Chiefs chairman met with 4th Infantry commander Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno earlier in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. They covered the tactics anti- coalition forces are using and the moves coalition forces are making to counter those threats. Myers said that the coalition is the most flexible force on the planet and it is able to adapt.

Myers and Odierno spoke about the way American forces have changed on an almost daily manner from force to peacekeeping and back. "These soldiers are able to switch from soldiering to peacekeeping," Myers said in the course of a briefing from the battalion commander. "People who have said that they can't do that, that they have to have a separate force to do this. Those who said this don't know what they're talking about."

Odierno said the troops ability to make this switch proves their discipline and sense of mission. He told Myers of one battalion soldier who entered a suspect's house.

The Iraqi fired a shotgun blast at the young specialist. He took the round in the chest at point blank range, but fortunately the ballistic plate stopped the shot. Instead of getting up and shooting the man, Odierno said, he stood up and placed the man and his son under arrest. "There's an example of discipline," the commander said.

Odierno said that Americans teach their children to be compassionate and it shows in the way U.S. troops deal with the Iraqis.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageTwo U.S.-force zodiac boats cruise through a lagoon in one of Saddam's palaces in Tikrit. The 4th Infantry Division has made one of the palaces a refuge for U.S. military personnel. About 500 soldiers and airmen come through the center weekly. They get to sleep in beds, eat good food, swim in a reconstructed pool, use the Internet, call friends and family in the United States and have no one shooting at them. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA 4th Infantry Division helicopter flies over a portion of rural Iraq during the visit by the Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the country. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDuring the war in Iraq, U.S. Air Force bombers used precision munitions to drop this bridge, near a Saddam Hussein palace in Tikrit, in two places. After major combat operations ended, U.S. Army engineers used military bridging equipment to repair the damage. Photo By Jim Garamone  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA UH-60 Black Hawk carrying Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers takes off from the 4th Infantry Division headquarters in Tikrit. The general was visiting what he called "the pointy end of the spear" in Iraq. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAmerican vehicles park on the grounds of Saddam's Tikrit palace. The palace, built illicitly using Oil-for-Food money, is the headquarters of the 4th Infantry Division. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, center, listens to a briefing from Army Col. Frederick Rudesheim, right, and Army Lt. Col. Nate Sassaman at the headquarters of the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry, at Balad, Iraq. Behind Myers is 4th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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