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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing with Brig. Gen. Boles

Presenters: Brig. Gen. Vincent Boles, Commander 3rd Corps Support Command
January 28, 2004 8:55 AM EDT
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing with Brig. Gen. Boles

            STAFF:  Good afternoon.


            Welcome to this evening's press briefing, where Brigadier General Boles will update you on operations from within his area of responsibility.  He will make a brief opening statement and then take your questions.


            This is a live broadcast to the Pentagon press and they will be given an opportunity to ask questions every third question when it comes to the questions and answers.


            If you have a cell phone or radios, please turn them off at this time.  Cameramen, just a reminder:  do not walk in and among the journalists.  When you are given the opportunity to ask questions, please state your name and your network agency; then reach forward, hit the button and turn off the speaker.


            Brigadier General Boles will address you on operations and information which relates only to the operations within 3rd Corps Support Command's zone of responsibility.  He will not address policy issues or governmental issues.  Please keep your questions to operations within the 3rd Corps Support Command's area of responsibility.


            Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to introduce Brigadier General Vincent E. Boles, commanding general of the 3rd Corps Support Command, also known as the 3rd COSCOM, currently stationed in LSA (Logistics Support Area) Anaconda, Balad, Iraq.


            Brigadier General Boles previously served during Desert Shield and Desert Storm as the material management chief for the 2nd Armored Division. He has been in the region for over one year during this operational tour, initially with the U.S. Army Field Support Command working with pre-positioning equipment, and later assuming command in July of the 3rd Corps Support Command.


            The 3rd Corps Support Command is responsible for providing support to all CJTF-7 forces operating in the Iraqi theater of operations.  His command has a unit footprint that stretches from Kuwait to the Turkish border.


            General Boles will give an overview of the 3rd COSCOM mission during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which will then be followed by a question and answer period.


            Ladies and gentlemen, Brigadier General Boles.


            GEN. BOLES:  Good afternoon.  I was thinking of how I would start my remarks after that introduction, and I was in the waiting room, and a gentleman -- I overhead a gentleman, perhaps one of you, saying, "What is a COSCOM?"  So perhaps that's a good place to start.


            I'm privileged to command what is called a Corps Support Command. And I'm going to take you through a few charts, rather than just throw that out there and let you just try to sort through questions.  I've got some charts that I think will put a frame around the picture of what the COSCOM is and what we do every day for our soldiers that I'm privileged to command.


            Could I have the next chart, please?


            That's our mission statement.  It's pretty straightforward. There are three COSCOMs in the Army.  I command the 3rd.  There are two others in the United States, and I command this one here.  And we presently have 15,000 soldiers, a little more than 10 percent of the task force.


            We're based normally in Wiesbaden, Germany, which is where we're located.  But we've been deployed here for this operation, and the COSCOM itself has been here for a year.


            That's somewhat of a dry definition, so when we talk to people who perhaps haven't seen that definition for the first time, we put it another way.


            Can I have the next chart?


            If any one of the 150,000 men or women in CJTF-7 eat it, drive it, move it, drink it, fly it or wear it, we're responsible for getting it to them.  And it passes through us.  And those are the things that we do, and those are the functions that we're responsible for and what we do.  We call ourselves the workforce of the task force, and we do that every day.  And I'm pretty blessed and privileged to do that.  Okay.


            Can I have the next chart?


            This is who we are.  If that's what I did in the last chart, this is who we are.  We're 15,000 soldiers.  We come from the active Army, and then we also have about 43 percent of our force, as you see outlined there, come from our Army National Guard and Army Reserve.


            The dots you see there are all the states in the union that those Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers come from.  So we come from throughout the United States of America and also the Principality of Puerto Rico.  So we're based in Wiesbaden, Germany, but all these other individuals join us.


            Interesting, when I'm back in Germany, I normally am about 4,000 soldiers, and I have grown to 15,000 to support the operation here and get to bring all those great kids with me.


            Now if I've gone through what our mission is and I've told you who we are, probably the next question you'd want to ask is, how have we done that?  How have we done?


            The next chart.


            We've issued 53-1/2 million meals in the year that we've been deployed here.  We have issued 15,000 pallets of mail and processed that mail for our soldiers, and that's enough mail -- that's seven-point -- that's almost 8 million pieces of mail to our soldiers.  So we have a lot of people sending bills to us, as we would say back in the United States.


            We have delivered an awful lot of fuel -- 186 million gallons -- and 330 million gallons of water.  Four-and-a-half million cases of bottled water is what we have taken out to our soldiers, and 100,000 maintenance work orders.  So we fix our equipment to keep it at a pretty high readiness level for what we're going to do, and I will talk about that a little bit later.  And then finally, we order a lot of repair parts to keep that equipment running: 4.3 million requisitions to request things, to get repair parts.


            But that's kind of dry also, so perhaps it's helpful if I put it another way.  There is a city in the United States of America called Springfield, Missouri in the center of our country, has about 150,000 people.  We have provided enough food to feed everybody in Springfield, Missouri three meals a day for a year.  We have delivered enough fuel for 40,000 automobiles every day.  We have got enough water out there to fill 3.2 million one-liter bottles, and everybody in Las Vegas, Nevada -- all 500,000 people in Las Vegas -- can take a shower every day with the water that our soldiers make.  And we repair 400 pieces of equipment daily, turning them around and sending them out and getting it moving.  All right?


            Next, we have a saying that nothing happens till something moves because I can do all that, but I have to move it someplace to get it to the soldiers.  As you heard before, we operate from the Turkish border all the way down to Kuwait, and that's how we do it.  We have driven 26 million miles this year.  We have over 2,000 trucks on the road every day, and we will talk about those types of trucks.


            Seven thousand of those moves that we do every year are called heavy equipment moves.  We move rather large tanks.  We don't want to drive them on the roadways, we don't want to drive the bulldozers on the roadways, so we will put them up on heavy equipment transporters and move them around in order to save the road networks.  We have been very flattered and happy to be part of the stand up of the Iraqi railroad again, and we have had over 350 rail movements just in the past four to six months as we have stood up and gotten that moving, and it has been a great asset to us also.  And then we have put 8,800 flights in our Iraqi airfields that we're around and utilize.


            But to put it another way, if I had to put that in other terms, like 8,700 trips -- the 26 million miles is 8,700 trips from New York to San Francisco.  We have a large company in the United States called Wal-Mart, and they have 3,000 trucks throughout the United States.  I put 2,000 trucks on the road every day, and that's a pretty significant thing we think.


            We have moved 210,000 tons of equipment.  That's 35 days on the trains -- that's 35 days of Amtrak going Boston to Washington every day.  And that's 20 flights every day in and out of Los Angeles Airport -- 20 days of flying in and out is how many flights we have run.


            People sometimes ask, well, General Boles, how does this work in terms of a historical perspective?  I mean, okay, you have done this, but this is just a data point in history.  How does this blend into the greater history of how things come?


            May I have the next chart?


            What our forefathers did when they fought World War II in Europe, they went from Normandy to Berlin, about 756 miles, and it took them 11 months to do that.  It took them from June of 1944 to May of 1945 to go that distance.  We operated over that distance in four weeks, a longer distance, 828 miles from Arifijan, where we started, in Kuwait, all the way up to Mosul and beyond, and we did that distance in four weeks.  And we continue to support along those lines even to this day and now.


            As we continue to support on this line, and having been here for a year, as you heard in the introduction, I've been pretty fortunate. It's given me the opportunity to see how logistics has changed over the year, how we've gone from where we were to where we've been.  The next chart I've got is a little busy, but I'll take you through it because I think it shows how we've evolved the support structure.


            Could I have the next chart?


            And I'll start over on your left-hand side.  That's where we were in June of 2003, when we first started this operation.  Our soldiers were eating predominantly the Meals Ready to Eat -- the MREs, we call them, the packaged food -- or a heat-and-serve ration we call a field ration.  We have soldiers on two bottles of water per soldier per day, about 3 liters of water per day, and the rest of the water had to be provided by water we'd produce and we'd make.


            Less than 20 percent of our force had the new-style body armor, and we only had what we would call green trucks, or United States Army trucks, our own organic trucks driven by our soldiers.  Those were the only trucks we had available to us to run the operation for logistics. And that's where we were at in June of 2003.


            Since that time, what you see on the other chart here, on the yellow part, is where we are now.  Eighty-two percent of our soldiers are eating in dining facilities that are contracted.  We have four bottles of water per soldier per day.  A hundred percent of the force that we have has the new-style body armor.  And we now have United States Army, we have contractor trucks, and we have trucks from the Iraqi nationals who are helping us, also.


            No mission's without its challenges, however. I wouldn't want to make this sound like an easy brief, because no mission is without its challenges, and this mission has had its own.


            Could I see the next chart?


            The first challenge we've found since we've been here has been the environment.  And the environment has had its challenge here, as you're familiar with it, having lived here; but for someone like me, who hasn't soldiered here in about 12 to 14 years, I found it to be a challenging environment in a couple of ways.


            First and foremost, in the most recent past we've seen the rain have an impact on what we do.  In Germany we have a phenomena on the roads we call black ice.  The roads are black, and it will get a little frosty and you'll start to slide on the roads.  Here in Iraq we've had a phenomena called brown ice.  We find when the rain hits, it will get the mud, and the mud will start working and it will start making it very slick for our soldiers.  And when you're driving very heavy trucks, that's something we have to guard against for our own safety and the safety of the Iraqi population.


            We've got very reduced visibility because of the blowing dust and sand that we work through.  Fog, especially in the morning up in Balad, where I'm at, in the Tigris and Euphrates River Valleys, that's a function of both our air operations and our ground operations.  And then the decreasing light as we get into the winter months has an impact on what we do, as we'll show later.  And then finally, the high temperatures, as you're familiar with, but some of our equipment isn't.  We get up to 125 degrees in the summer, and in some of the vehicles that are soldiers are in, that gets inside a temperature of about 140, 150 degrees.  And that has its challenges in how they operate.


            Next chart.


            Our time and distance is also a factor because it's a pretty large operation, if Iraq's the size of California.  It's about 910 kilometers just from the Kuwait border, where we start, up into this vicinity here in Baghdad.  And that's a 15-1/2 hour drive with the convoys that we have.  And, put another way, if Iraq is the size of California, that would equate from driving from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Francisco every day.  And our soldiers do that every day.  That's a 15-and-a-half hour, or in some limited-visibility days, a two-day drive for them.  And they'll make that operation every day to get that support to our soldiers -- forward.  Put another way, it's a very large operation that we're running over pretty long distances.  And that puts a challenge on our equipment and a strain on what we do.


            Next chart.


            Finally, we have a very adaptive enemy.  The enemy we fight has been adaptive, has changed his tactics and brought them on.  Here are some of the ways, and the three largest ways we're attacked is we're on the road, we're at work in providing support, whether through small-arms fire, mortars or improvised explosive devices.  And I'm sure you've covered those in previous events.  Those are the ones that we see routinely.  When we're on the road, if you have 2,000 trucks on the road every day, you'll run into some of these and our soldiers face these challenges every day that they go into.


            But we're pretty fortunate.  Just as the enemy has been adaptive, the Army has had in this era of change to be a learning organization. And we've had to adapt and learn ourselves.  We've been able to do that.


            Let me see the next chart.


            We're learning as well, and some of the ways we've learned is at the top.  The way we're dealing with the environment is we've brought ice plants online.  I have one at Balad now -- 40 tons a day -- making ice.  We're also exporting ice plants throughout the country that will help our soldiers and help the economy and the environment handle the upcoming summer weather.  We've also been able to get water delivery working from multiple countries that are bringing water in and that's one thing we've done.


            We also have an Army industry partnership.  Many of our industry partners that the American Army works with, who make and produce our equipment, have come forward into this environment.  And they've set up their operations here to help get our equipment fixed more quickly and turned back in getting into the deployment of what we needed to do.


            The time-distance function -- we've been very blessed with satellite-based communications for in-transit visibility.  We also have a system called a movement tracking system which allows a soldier anywhere they go in their truck to tap on a keyboard and send a message anywhere with their position and where they're at so we can see where they're going.  And we can get word to them, don't go to this location, go to another location.  And that's how we overcome the time-distance challenge.


            And finally, the adaptive enemy and the threats we face.  We've put our soldiers in Interceptor body armor, 100 percent of them now. And we've also adapted our vehicles and gun trucks and our soldiers have made gun truck out of their own devices and put additional protection on, and additional ballistic armor on our vehicles to kind of help us.  And our soldiers do this every day, every mission.  And we try to learn from every environment that we're in and our soldiers try to go through that and we see how helpful it's been.  But as I said, it's not without its challenges.


            Well, why would we do this?  We don't just do it for ourselves. We're looking at building a better future together.  We've spent $2.8 million to help 12,000 students in 121 schools up in our districts in the area that we work within.  And I got to tell you, that's a labor of love when you look in the eyes of our soldiers' faces.  And people say how do we need to connect with the Iraqi population?  I would say just simply put soldiers with children and the right things seem to happen.  It's just magical.  It seems to bring out the best in both of us.


            We've got operations going in four local hospitals, and we're privileged to stand up an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps battalion with about -- right now it's just 892 soldiers, but we're getting there. We've started to stand up the first elements of it now, and we'll expect to have that going pretty soon.  Okay.


            Next chart, please.


            That would conclude, probably, the prepared portion of the text and remarks.  And that was designed to put a little framework around the logistics support and what we do, and perhaps to answer the question from the person at the very beginning that I overheard, who said, "What is a COSCOM?"  That's what we do.  We provide the logistics support throughout the task force, all the way from the Kuwaiti border up to Turkey and everywhere in between.  And that's our job, and I'm pretty proud and privileged to do it.  And I'd be happy to take any questions you have now.


            Yes, ma'am?


            Q     From The Washington Post, Pamela Constable.


            GEN. BOLES:  Yes, ma'am.


            Q     How many troops have you lost, killed or wounded, because of attacks on convoys or other operations?  And can you be a little -- can you elaborate a bit on the up-armoring that you've had to do of non-armored vehicles to compensate for this problem?


            GEN. BOLES:  Sure.  I've had six soldiers, unfortunately, be KIA- ed, killed in action, since we have been here.  And I have 181 soldiers that have been inducted into the Order of the Purple Heart, who have been wounded in action.


            Of those soldiers, though -- it's a testimony to our great medical team  -- of those 181 [soldiers], 134 have been returned to duty and are back serving with us now.  And the MEDEVAC (medical evacuation) system has worked very, very well for our soldiers.


            In terms of the up-armoring of the humvees (HMMWV) and the up-armoring of other systems, what we've done -- it's really been a combination of two things.  One is, our industry base back in America saw the challenge that we had and quickly has brought systems forward for us and brought us additional doors that we've been able to put on, and some other systems and windows, which has just provided protection. So we've been able to add on.


            Our own soldiers have their own skunk works, which over time they've developed.  They'll put sheet metal on, put sandbags in certain places, put additional sheet metal on.  And we have instances where that's saved lives for our soldiers.


            Okay.  Sir?


            Q     (Through interpreter.)  (Name inaudible) -- from Iraqi TV.


            GEN. BOLES:  Please.


            Q     (Through interpreter.)  I have two questions.  Will the American forces be replaced by combined multinational forces?  The second question is, has Izzat Al-Douri been arrested in your area of operations?


            GEN. BOLES:  The answer to the second question is not that I know of.


            Q     (In Arabic.)




            GEN. BOLES:  Is there a translation for that?


            INTERPRETER:  Yes, there is.  Izzat Al-Douri -- was he arrested in the -- is there any information for the arrest of Izzat Al-Douri in your area of operations?


            GEN. BOLES:  Okay. Sir, I have no knowledge of that.  And the answer to your first question, there have been members of the multinational division here, and we serve and work with them – so that's already ongoing.  There are not plans for the future, I mean, we just are continuing that plan, and we have the multinational divisions with us now.



            Q     (Through interpreter) General, the vehicles that provide support for the Americans here, they are the ones that are facing attacks.  So how do you deal with those attacks against your vehicles? Thank you.


            GEN. BOLES:  We deal with attacks three ways.  First, we train our soldiers.  The troops that I have are not just logistic soldiers, they are soldiers.  We send them here to soldier.  So the first thing is every soldier is expected to be a soldier and defend themselves, and our soldiers are no exception to that.


            The second thing that we do is we not only train each individual soldier, we train as a group and as a unit.  When our convoys move, they're integrated.  They talk to each other and they stay integrated, and we want to fight as a team.  So anyone that would take on a convoy would not just take on one vehicle, it would take on an entire system of soldiers.


            And finally, the third thing we do is we do a very good job with our communications systems and staying in touch and connected with each other, and that's a great help to us.  So those three things help us quite a bit.


            But our soldiers are very brave and very determined.  And the mission we do is also probably the other reason that keeps us going. The soldiers of the Combined Joint Task Force count on us every day. Those are things they need to have to do their jobs.  If we don't provide it -- I mean, we can't contract that, nobody can do that, so we have to provide that for them.  And that sense of motivation and spirit keeps them going also.


            There was another question, sir.


            Q     (Through interpreter) (Name inaudible) -- from the Democratic Gathering.  General Ricardo Sanchez stated before that there are some foreign fighters that are here and are moving by financing of the al Qaeda.  Do you think that this problem is kind of strange?  You know that these foreign fighters are moved by some financers from al Qaeda, but there are no steps taken towards those. Could you please give some information how to deal with those?   Thank you.


            GEN. BOLES:  That would not be in my purview to talk about.  I provide support to the forces rather than interception of other forces, so I wouldn't be able to answer the question, sir.  Sorry.


            Ma'am, please?


            Q     Anne Ceny Mufty from AFP.


            GEN. BOLES:  Yes, ma'am.


            Q     Is there a particular area of the country in which you have come under attack more frequently or more often --


            GEN. BOLES:  I think --


            Q     -- or more intensively than other areas?


            GEN. BOLES:  There are some areas, I guess, where the former regime elements are still -- they are -- you know, and you report on them every day.  We do have attacks in the Fallujah area and other vicinities and vicinities north, and we have had attacks in those areas.  But we have had attacks up and down the area, and some are more centralized than others.  But there has been no area that has been completely off limits to us.




            Q     (Through interpreter)  Salah Sarkirchi from the Al- Munajat magazine.  Was there any kind of coordination with the neighboring countries in order to put an end to the infiltration of those elements, criminal elements here?


            Second, with the coming of the American forces here in Iraq, and you are giving many promises to Iraqis.  We want to know the credibility of your promises here in Iraq.  Thank you.


            GEN. BOLES:  Sir, I would have to ask you to be specific.  When you say you're making promises -- I don't know what you mean.


            Q     (Through interpreter)  Regarding the second question, the press -- the American press, since you're entering Iraq, they mentioned that you have come here to -- getting the Iraqis and winning the Iraqis.  So where lies the credibility of your promises here in Iraq for Iraqis?


            GEN. BOLES:  I think the credibility is, you know, for us in logistics is our behavior is believable.  We have promised that we would provide support to our soldiers, and we have done that.  And those interactions when we come into contact with the Iraqi population, we have done that also, and I think done it in a positive way.


            Another question, please.  Sir?


            Q     Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder.  I was wondering if you could speak a little bit about obviously one of the three sort of dangers that you spoke of, or improvised roadside explosives.  I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the evolution of IEDs as you all have seen them, sort of both in terms of placement, detonation and what devices themselves are made up of.


            GEN. BOLES:  They're made up of a variety of products.  I mean, we have seen, you know, varying levels of sophistication with them and varying levels of, you know, I guess disguises, I guess if you want to use that term.  But our soldiers have become -- are becoming and have become very adept at noticing, observing, and we're seeing a very positive trend in that we're discovering more than are exploding.  And that's a positive trend that we're seeing, and I think it's because we are -- our soldiers are adapting pretty well to it is what we're seeing.


            Q     If I could follow up?


            GEN. BOLES:  Please.


            Q     Have you seen a difference, though, in IEDs, you know, in terms of evolution, change, either in terms of the devices themselves, the placement, perhaps how aware of your routes they seem to be?


            GEN. BOLES:  No, I haven't, even though we've looked.  And we track that.  You know, it wouldn't surprise you to know we track that. But I've not seen any -- you know, it's -- there's no unified trend I've seen about that.  It's just -- you'll see a sophisticated one here, you'll see a very basic one here, you'll see a different type of one here, but they -- don't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. Okay.


            Oh, do we have the Pentagon?


            Q     General Boles, Sandra Erwin with National Defense Magazine. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the resetting equipment demands coming up with the troop rotation that's going to be happening.  Can you give us a sense of how many helicopters, tanks, trucks and things like that would be coming back, possibly, to the United States, or maybe will you be repairing them in theater?


            GEN. BOLES:  I can speak -- what we're doing now -- we have teams that are looking at the equipment, and we're maintaining our equipment pretty well.  I'm very pleased with the readiness rates we have.  But we'll look at that equipment, and we'll take a very good look.  We call that a reset process, and we'll take a look at that as we start redeploying the equipment to home station.


            One of the things we'll do is a very intensive maintenance cycle, and then, depending on what the inspections tell us, we'll go from there in terms of where the equipment gets repaired.  Do we repair it on the installation?  Does it have some damage or some excessive wear that would be better done in a depot installation somewhere else?  So each system's going to have its own idiosyncrasies that we'll have to work through.


            But I'd say right now the reset program -- the plan is to get our soldiers redeployed back to their home stations, get their equipment redeployed, linked up with them, and then a pretty intensive -- you know, a pretty intensive period of maintenance and reinspection, so we're ready and reset for the next deployment or the next operation that the government sends us on.


            Yes, ma'am?


            Q     Do you have a clear idea about when you will be leaving Iraq, then?


            GEN. BOLES:  I'm like every soldier.  I -- my wife said that I can talk about the date I'm leaving when my foot gets on the plane, and that's when she wants to hear from me.  So the dates are out there.  We try to keep our soldiers to a 365-day window – that they stay 365 days in the theater.  But I haven't been given my official – I haven’t been given my official date, but you know, it's going to be about the one-year mark.


            Sir?  Please.


            Q     You mentioned you had 15,000.  With the troop rotation and reduction, will you be reducing that amount for your own unit over the next six months, or can you?


            GEN. BOLES:  No, I think we'll have the force here necessary to support what we need to, and I wouldn't see much of a reduction at all.  We'll keep that logistics support.  I mean, it's -- some things don't change.  I mean, it's going to get hot in the summer, people are going to need water, and those sorts of things.  And there may be some modifications, but it will be in consonance with the size of the force that we have.


            Ma'am?  Yes.


            Q     The one thing that was sort of missing from your chart was anything about cost.  Can you give us a basic rundown, some of the items that you mentioned, for example?  Can you put a price tag on any of this?


            GEN. BOLES:  I can get back to you on that.  There's a whole laydown of costs and I track them in a lot of different ways.  And I'll take that question and we'll work that.  But there's a laydown we can give you, and I can do that.   And we'll take that on.


            Sir?  Please.


            Q     (Name and affiliation inaudible) -- TV, Japan.  I'm curious to know if there's any postal service active inside Iraq among your group.  Are the letters being sent from the U.S., from the families to your soldiers?  And if so, are you doing anything to help rebuilding the Iraqi postal service?  Because there seems to be rebuilding these days.


            GEN. BOLES:  That's a good question I don't know the answer to. I'll ask somebody to take that one on because I don't -- I should know the answer to that and I don't.  Eight million pieces of mail's kind of kept me occupied.  But we should know the answer, and we'll have someone work that.  Thank you.


            There was another question, I think, somewhere.  Okay?  Well, and if there's nothing else from the Pentagon -- oh, I'm sorry.  Please.


            Q     General, Jim Mannion from Agence France-Presse.  I was wondering, with the rotation of forces, I was wondering what the impact that's going to be on, you know, the whole logistics system, what increase there will be, for example, in the volume of convoys that are going to be moving between Kuwait and Iraq; and also, what your concerns are that that will present opportunities for attacks on those convoys.


            GEN. BOLES:  Okay.  The first concern, obviously, we have is safety.  When you have that many vehicles moving on the road, safety's going to be a concern, obviously.  And we spend a lot of time going over safety with our soldiers.  So that's one area that probably is a concern.


            The other concern and the other requirement I got is, you know, we really spend a lot of time planning this.  I mean, it's really basic physics.  The road network is so big, there are so many trucks, there are so many vehicles, there are so many people moving, and the laws of physics apply and only so much can move in such a period of time.  So we really rigorously plan that down.  And I know that sometimes plans don't always go on track, but we've got a pretty good record, performance record, of staying on plan with that so far.  And that's really the biggest challenge for us, is planning through it, working through the plan and then being able to modify it if we have to. 


The road network presents its own challenges when you've got that many people moving back and forth, as you articulated there.  Safety, one, just always a big concern.  That relates to what you asked about in terms of am I worried about it being predicated on more attacks.  We're going to have more vehicles on the road; that's more soldiers.  Our soldiers will be armed and prepared to defend themselves.  And so while it is more vehicles on the road, it's also -- you know, some people would say it's more of a target; I think it's more combat power on the road, and that's the way we prefer to look at it.




            Q     (Through interpreter) Are you satisfied with the dealing of your forces with the citizens, Iraqi citizens here, especially in your area of operations?  Thank you.


            GEN. BOLES:  I would wish the question was, “Was I satisfied with the way our soldiers had dealt with Iraqi citizens.”  And I would say that I'd only wish we had more frequent interactions.  The challenge to that has been with many of the tragic attacks that have gone on -- those IEDs and other attacks we mentioned -- they don't just hurt our soldiers, they have hurt innocent Iraqi civilians, people who have just been driving by a road when an IED has gone off and been impacted as well.  That sometimes limits our interactions.  People see us coming and are apprehensive what will happen.


            So as the terrorist threat reduces, it gives us even more of an opportunity to interact.  One thing I have been pleased about is the repetitive nature of the interactions.  And what I mean by that is once there's interaction and it begins, both parties want it to continue.  And we've made some very good friendships up in the Balad area and throughout the country.  Each of my subordinate commanders has got members of the community that they work with and work within. And so that's been a positive.  But I think as the country and the terrorist threat, you know, is reduced, we'll have greater and greater opportunities to get even more interactions going on.  So, I wish there were more.  I'm very pleased with the ones we have, but I wish there were more.  And my prayer is that as it gets safer, that will happen.


            STAFF:  Okay, thank you.


            GEN. BOLES:  Thank you very much for your time, and safe travels to all of you.  Bye-bye.



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