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U.S. Airfield Troops Sustain Ops, Assist Iraqi Populace

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2003 – U.S. Army and Air Force troops at an airfield in southern Iraq are providing military air and logistical support -- and much-needed medical and other assistance to local Iraqis.

"Now that we've transitioned to the post-hostility phase, we're really getting our medical people out into the local community, and they've been down to An Nasiriyah, to the hospital there, almost daily," noted Army Brig. Gen. Jack Stoltz, deputy commander, 377th Theater Support Command.

Stoltz is also the chief of all U.S. civil affairs activities in the Nasiriyah region, where Tallil Forward Air Base is located. He and Air Force Col. John Dobbins, the air base's commander, took part in an April 17 news teleconference with Pentagon reporters.

The air base, the general noted, provides "food, fuel and other supplies as needed" to U.S. forces in Iraq.

Also, the air base's U.S. civil affairs contingent is providing humanitarian support to local Iraqis, Stoltz pointed out, "to get the country stood back up on its feet" and "Iraq back to being a normal, working economy."

U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division troops seized the airfield from Hussein-regime forces on March 23, noted Dobbins.

During hostilities, he said, military supplies were flown out of Tallil earmarked for U.S. and coalition troops moving north.

And a multitude of A-10 aircraft ground-support and air search- and-rescue missions were also launched from the air base, the colonel continued, including a high point of 50 sorties during the height of combat operations in the country.

Members of a United Kingdom military engineering unit had patched up the runway, Dobbins pointed out, and they are now constructing facilities to improve the quality of life for air base personnel.

The U.S. combat support hospital at Tallil has provided medical treatment not only to wounded U.S. and coalition troops, but also to injured Iraqi civilians and enemy prisoners of war, Stoltz pointed out. He noted that the Americans have been "really saving a lot of Iraqi lives here at the airfield."

The civil affairs troops, the general said, are also working with local Iraqis to get regional water and electrical plants back on line. In the meantime, he pointed out, the Americans are providing purified water to the Iraqi populace, as well as providing medical supplies and using portable electric generators to keep local hospitals running.

Consequently, Stoltz remarked, there has been "a dramatic shift" in how the Iraqis view the Americans, from an initial attitude of "hesitancy and fear" to gratitude.

During a recent trip north to Baghdad, Stoltz said he saw farmers plowing their fields and children playing soccer, supporting his view that perhaps Iraqis are returning to societal normalcy.

And, the general recalled, "in every instance along the roadway all the locals were waving to us and thanking us and giving us the peace sign."

The Iraqis' attitude toward Americans "is very positive, very pro-American now," Stoltz concluded.

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