10th Mountain Troops Exude Confidence in Mission, Selves
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2001 A group of Army 10th Mountain Division soldiers deployed in Uzbekistan expressed confidence in their unit, themselves and their mission to fight terrorists across the globe.
The soldiers, five men and one woman ranging in rank from private to staff sergeant, spoke to Pentagon reporters today through an overseas telephone feed. The troops provided just their first names, ranks and military specialties due to security concerns.
Scott, a public affairs officer in Uzbekistan, noted to reporters that the 10th Mountain troops were deployed to that country to conduct search and rescue operations and humanitarian relief missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Charles, an air defense artilleryman, called the 10th Mountain "the best division in the Army." "We're highly trained and highly motivated," he said. All the 10th Mountain soldiers in Uzbekistan "know why we're here," he added.
The soldiers said they are well taken care of in Uzbekistan, with the staff sergeant noting "the conditions here are excellent."
The troops, he said, are billeted in tents with cots, with access to three hot meals a day provided by a dining facility. And a military post exchange store was set up just a few days ago, he added.
The living conditions in Uzbekistan "are more than adequate," echoed Pfc. Dan, noting the soldiers also "phone home and write letters."
Pvt. Rachel, a chemical operations specialist, noted she has "everything" that she might need or want in Uzbekistan, adding, "We are well taken care of."
"Morale is high here and we're just happy to be here and proud that we can serve our country," said Dan, whose military job was undefined during the interview.
The American troops have good relations with local Uzbekistanis, who've been "very hospitable," the staff sergeant said. "The host nation is happy to have us here."
The 10th Mountain soldiers couldn't disclose their specific location or describe the Uzbekistani geography, but said they were happy to share their feelings about being deployed thousands of miles from Fort Drum, N.Y., to a country located just north of fighting between Taliban and Al Qaeda troops and opposition forces.
The 10th Mountain troops in Uzbekistan train constantly and also pull guard duty, said Spc. Duncan, a heavy mortar operator.
Pvt. Rachel said she's filled her days conducting decontamination mission readiness exercises in Uzbekistan.
"The 10th Mountain Division is prepared to fight anywhere, anytime, anybody -- in this environment or any environment," she said, adding the soldiers have also received cold weather training.
"Day-to-day, we work on upgrading the installation," said Sgt. Paul, a combat engineer.
Charles said he and fellow air defense artilleryman Spc. Michael work to maintain their state of readiness "so we continue helping aid in the humanitarian missions as well as the search and rescue missions, and providing force protection here.
"There is no doubt in any soldier's mind here that we'll accomplish the mission that we've been sent out to do," Charles added.
Packages and letters of encouragement sent from home to the troops "are coming in every day," Charles noted. He said the soldiers send their best wishes to parents and other loved ones, and that "we're doing fine."
"We're supported 100 percent," he said.
Mail received by soldiers from loved ones at home "improves morale every day," said Paul.
Items in short supply in Uzbekistan that would be appreciated by the troops include automobile, sports and other magazines, the soldiers noted. Rachel said she would like some "gummi bears" candy.
The troops do get news of the situation in Afghanistan and elsewhere, said Duncan, noting the copy of DoD's "The Stars and Stripes" newspaper right beside him.
Rachel said she and her fellow soldiers in Uzbekistan "feel the suffering and loss" caused by the terrorist attacks on New York City, the Pentagon, and the airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania.
"We hope that our actions will keep that from happening again," she added. "We just hope that we can help raise the morale of the rest of the country like our morale is raised in the military."