DoD Press Briefing with Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli from the Pentagon
(Note: Lt. Gen. Chiarelli appears via teleconference from Iraq.)
BRYAN WHITMAN (deputy assistant secretary of defense for public
affairs): Well, good morning, and welcome. I see that we have video
of General Chiarelli. Let's just see if he can hear us.
General, it's Bryan Whitman at the Pentagon. Can you hear me
GEN. CHIARELLI: I can, sir.
MR. WHITMAN: Very good.
GEN. CHIARELLI: I -- (off mike).
MR. WHITMAN: Well, thank you very much, General, for joining us
today. This is, again, my privilege to introduce to you Lieutenant
General Pete Chiarelli, who is the commanding general of Multinational
Corps in Iraq. He's been there since January of this year. And he
directs, of course, the operations of the joint and coalition forces
in all sectors of Iraq. And it's been a few months since he last
briefed you, and we really do appreciate the opportunity to get your
perspective, General, as the corps commander, and thank you for taking
our questions today.
So with that, let me turn it over to you, though, for some
opening remarks, and then we'll take some questions.
GEN. CHIARELLI: Well, thank you, sir, and I appreciate everybody
being there this morning, your time, afternoon here.
The last time I was here -- and I think many of you know this is
my second tour in Iraq -- we left on a big high, having just completed
the elections of January 2005 and seeing Iraqis turn out at the polls
in numbers that, quite frankly, we never expected.
This time, I know, we have achieved a great deal, and the
situation would be far worse than it was, is, if it were not for the
American heroes that are out on the street every day in Baghdad and
across the country.
But I know I am leaving Iraq in a more uncertain and somewhat
more tumultuous state than the last time I left.
The Iraqis are going through a kind of transformation in their
society. History shows us that transformational change like this is
often accompanied by violence.
Many people want to call this a civil war, and the debate whether
Iraq is in a civil war or not is largely a debate over semantics in
which I don't particularly care to engage. I find this public
discussion really counterproductive. People are trying to boil down a
very complex situation into a sound bite. It's an attempt to
oversimplify what I believe is a very complicated situation. Arguing
about what bumper stickers should be used to describe this conflict is
potentially misleading and enflames rather than illuminates. The
other day I was talking to my British deputy about the American
Revolution, and he responded, "You mean your country's first civil
war?" So I guess it's where you stand is where you sit.
The situation is what it is, and what I see happening on a daily
basis is a needless loss of life because foreign fighters and some
members of this society would rather use violence to settle the issues
they are working through rather than the political process. At some
point, Iraqis have to decide if they want peace. They have to decide
that the future of their children is more important than the past or
present problems, and they must be willing to work through them and
through the political process.
We've had a lot of accomplishments in the year that we've been
here. A lot of great things that we have done are not always visible
to the public at home, and they see the continuing violence as a sign
we have not accomplished anything. I don't believe that. I believe
we have accomplished a lot. We are in the difficult business of
proving a negative, and that's, in the absence of our efforts, really,
how much worse would it be? This corps and the great military forces
we command have helped to bring stability and hope to thousands of
Iraqis that would otherwise not see these benefits.
That said, there is a lot more work to be done, and we should not
give in to the defeatist mood that I sometimes see displayed. This
mission is the most critical and significant that we've undertaken in
perhaps 50 years, and failure, in my opinion, is not an option.
I still believe the mission can succeed if the proper resources are
brought to bear at the issues at hand.
The proper political pieces must be in place in order for any of
the military, economic or social initiatives to take hold and to
flourish. We need to get out of thinking this is solely a military
conflict where we must simply apply more U.S. or coalition and Iraqi
forces against an enemy that we can destroy. All our nation's
strengths -- diplomatic, economic, political -- must be leveraged to
help the Iraqis find their way through this process.
Iraq has tremendous potential in the economic realm and we need
to bring our capabilities, specifically our human capital, to bear to
help the Iraqis have a functioning economy where people are gainfully
employed. Iraq could be the most significant power in the region if
we could help them stabilize their country and bring their economy to
its full potential.
In order for these things to succeed, however, we need a
commitment by all Iraqis of all the ethno-sectarian groups to commit
first to nonviolence and to resolving their differences through the
political process. We need, quite frankly, to move toward
reconciliation. Iraqi citizens must feel that their government is a
genuine unity government that is working for the benefit of all its
In conclusion, again, this situation cannot be resolved by
military forces alone. And I know that is uncomfortable for a lot of
people both in and out of uniform who were raised on the concepts of
destroying a certain portion of the enemy's forces and declaring
victory. This conflict will take all efforts in government, economic
development and transition working together. I believe that the days
of these kinds of conflicts are over.
The situation in Iraq is, in fact, far more representative of the
challenges we will face in the world to come, and we need to prepare
our military and our government more broadly to deal with these
challenges. Civil-military integration is key to that. We still have
work to do on getting our organizations and systems right so that we
can operate simultaneously along all the lines of operation and the
other lines, such as political and economic. And Iraq and this region
are critical to our future security and we need to use this experience
as an object lesson for the kinds of conflicts and challenges we will
face in the future.
I will now take your question.
MR. WHITMAN: Well, thank you, General, for that overview and
Let's go ahead and get started, with Pam.
Q General, this is Pam Hess with United Press International.
The narrative that we've gotten here over the last year in Iraq is
that it was the Golden Mosque bombing that set this all off and set
Iraq on the course it's on now. But I think it's got to be more
complicated than that, Can you explain to us how you think Iraq got
from the elections that you talked abut to where it is now, what the
missteps were on the part of the United States that we could have done
differently? I think we're aware of what the Iraqi government could
have done differently, as in getting organized more quickly, moving
towards reconciliation, handling their oil. But could you focus on
the U.S. end? What missteps did we make in the last year?
GEN. CHIARELLI: Well, I think the Golden Mosque bombing was
absolutely critical. In my two years here, there's not been a single
more definitive event that seemed to have changed the way Iraqis
looked at themselves and looked at their country. I remember when I
was over here in my first year, the issues of sectarianism were
something that were possibly below the surface, but when you talked to
Iraqis, they considered themselves Iraqis.
And there wasn't a single situation that I remember in my first
year where they pointed to the difference between Sunni and Shi'a when
you went down into the neighborhoods. When you went down into the
neighborhoods in Baghdad, where I was the first time, you found mixed
neighborhoods of Sunnis and Shi'as who had lived together for many,
many years. And quite frankly, neighbors didn't know what the sect of
each other was.
I happen to believe that we have done everything militarily we
possibly can. We're working to strengthen the Iraqi military. The
Iraqi army gets better every day. But I really believe the key to
this conflict is to understand that it's going to take more than
military action to solve the problems that face Iraq and to pull
people together. It's going to take working along with other lines of
operation, the economic and the political lines of operation, the
reconstruction line of operation, to give Iraqis hope for their
I'm still struck by the fact that when I go into the provinces
and talk to provincial governors and ask them what's the one thing
that I could do to, in fact, make things better and create a better
security situation in their province, they unanimously tell me every
time, put the angry young man to work, find jobs for them. And I think
that it's those kinds of things that we need to do better, and I think
it's those kinds of things that we have to convince the Iraqi
government are absolutely critical to lowering the level of violence
at the same time that we do what's necessary for those who do not want
Iraqi democracy to succeed.
Q And, sir, you don't think it's -- it's not too late for
that? You think there's still an opportunity to turn things around?
GEN. CHIARELLI: I definitely think there's an opportunity to
turn things around. There's no doubt in my mind there is. I think we
need to sit down -- and I know we are, I know the ambassador and
General Casey are, and talk to the Iraqi government of some of those
non-kinetic things that they need to do, some of the legislation that
they need to get through the Council of Representatives that will move
this country toward a brighter economic future that will put people to
work, that will take away the power base from many of the militias and
many of the insurgents which attack our forces and Iraqi forces. I
definitely think that this is winnable, but we've got to do those
things that are necessary and convince -- help convince the Iraqis
that it's not just the military alone that will solve the problems
that face them.
MR. WHITMAN: Tom.
Q General, Tom Bowman with NPR. When I was walking around
that Baghdad neighborhood with you back in September, at that time the
reconstruction money wasn't flowing to Anbar as it should have, of
course where the bulk of the Sunnis live. There was no date for
provincial elections by the Shi'a-led government. And Baghdad was
being ethnically cleansed of Sunnis. Given all that, what hope do the
Sunnis have? And have you seen any real movement toward
GEN. CHIARELLI: Well, we see some movement of the money toward
Al Anbar. I wish it was moving quicker.
In fact, I wish money was moving quicker to all the provinces. One of
the biggest complaints that we get when we get out away from Baghdad
into the provinces is the movement of money into the provinces so they
can do what's necessary. And those are things that are going to have
to be worked out in the Council of Representatives, and that is the
role the provinces play. My understanding of this country is that
it's been Baghdad-centered for a long time, and when you move out into
the provinces, what you find is that the people are very, very focused
on the provincial government.
That's why I happen to believe that provincial elections are
absolutely critical. I mentioned the elections in January of 2005.
They were very, very important, and a lot of Iraqis got out and voted.
But you know and I know that in many of the provinces the Sunnis
didn't get out and vote in the numbers that they should have, and in
some of the provinces, we have an overrepresentation of Shi'as on the
provincial council. In some of them they dominate only the provincial
councils. And again, when we talk to Iraqis, they in fact,
particularly the Sunnis, bring up the need to move toward provincial
elections as soon as we can. So I happen to believe that's a critical
element in the next year, and it's something that I hope happens.
MR. WHITMAN: Jim.
Q General Chiarelli, Jim Miklaszewski --
GEN. CHIARELLI: Hang on. Reconciliation. I think it's a
critical element when it comes to reconciliation, that the new
announcement of the date for those elections would have a tremendous
impact in many of the Sunni neighborhoods. So it didn't die down
outside Baghdad -- up north and out west.
I'm sorry to cut you off, sir.
Q You said this is what the government has to do, but is
there any sense of when the elections would be?
GEN. CHIARELLI: I haven't seen it yet. I know General Casey and
the ambassador are working it very hard, and I haven't seen it yet. I
look forward to the publication of that date and getting the necessary
legislation in place that will allow that to happen.
MR. WHITMAN: Let's go back to Jim now.
Q General Chiarelli, Jim Miklaszewski with NBC. The Iraq
Study Group has set a goal of removing all U.S. combat forces from
Iraq by the first quarter of 2008, save those that would be left
behind for force protection. Is that even feasible? Can you set that
kind of goal at this point? And what do you think of their
proposition that you have to set these goals to let the Iraqis know
the U.S. commitment is not open-ended or they won't take any steps on
their own behalf such as reconciliation?
GEN. CHIARELLI: Well, first of all, Jim, I haven't had an
opportunity to read the entire report in its entirety, and I plan to
do that in the next couple of days. But it would be unfair for me to
comment on the specifics of the report. I will tell you I think
that's possible if in fact we have interim steps that are agreed upon
with timelines that basically move us toward reconciliation. I don't
believe reconciliation is going to happen tomorrow. I don't believe
it's going to happen in the next month. I don't believe it's going to
happen in the next 60 days.
But I believe we could create a series of steps along a timeline that
would take us to a point where we could see reconciliation, and I'm
very confident that that could happen. And I happen to think that
there are things that are happening now that might bring to the Iraqis
an understanding that this is absolutely critical to them and their
government to do just this. And I know the prime minister has been
talking about reconciliation. He's got his emissaries, they're
working throughout the country trying to put together such a plan.
And I know General Casey is working very, very hard, along with the
ambassador, to do that.
But I think that if we set up a series of goals, goals that are
tied to dates of certain critical things that have to be done to make
all the Iraqi people believe that this is a government of national
unity, that we could regain their confidence, and anything is
Q Could you share with us, General, what those things are
that are happening now that lead you to believe that reconciliation is
at least possible?
GEN. CHIARELLI: Well, as you know, as part of the Baghdad
Security Plan, one of the things that we have that I don't think
really was explained that way it needed to be, was we went in to clear
particular areas, we went in to hold particular areas, and we went in
to build particular areas. And maybe the most important portion of
the Baghdad Security Plan was that "build" portion.
And as you know, our ERF money is in fact running out, that
$18.4 million, and we understood that for many of the large
infrastructure projects, that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi
government would be the ones who needed to pick those up. Now, we
have helped them establish processes. One of them is our JROC. It's
a command and control center for reconstruction. It was initially an
organization that was manned only by coalition members, but now we
have seven members of the Amanat that are down working with us on
a daily basis. They're part of that entire process.
We've set up a process here that I see moving in the right
direction. Have we gotten enough dirt turning in the neighborhood?
Absolutely not, and we need to do more of that, and we need to move
the Iraqis along a little bit quicker in working some of those large
infrastructure projects. It would do two things.
First of all, it gives the people hope for their future when they see
the dirt turning, when they see the sewer systems go in, when they see
the electrical distribution start to be put in, when they see trash
being picked up. And if you do it on a scale that is needed in this
country, it has the second effect of employment. And as I mentioned
earlier, employment is absolutely critical to what we're doing to take
the angry young men off the street.
We've been doing some work with some different kind of models
that take a look at what we could do if we can, in fact, improve job
satisfaction with the Iraqis. And we see for really a very, very
small improvement in job satisfaction, what our models tell us is that
we could have a tremendous impact on the violence that is occurring in
and around Baghdad. I think that this is absolutely critical to, in
fact, moving in that direction.
But again, the Iraqis are key to this. We are not only in a
period of transition to the Iraqi army, we also have to transition
these other requirements, such as the capital spending that's so
absolutely critical for this country so that it can be a major
economic player both in the region and in the world, and put its
people to work.
MR. WHITMAN: Let's go to Lolita.
Q General Chiarelli, it's Lolita Baldor with the Associated
Press. You just referred to the transition of the Iraqi army. One of
the discussions here is the increase in the number of trainers to go
over and embed with the Iraqis to help bring them along. Can you give
us your assessment whether an additional 10,000 to 20,000 trainers
would be enough to do that, and whether or not you think that's
possible, how well you think that would happen in order to get the
U.S. troops to significantly reduce by early 2008.
GEN. CHIARELLI: I won't give you a number because the staffs are
working on numbers now in many of the options that they're working for
I will tell you, I think that this is a very important step.
I think there's some misperception in the open press about what
we had over here. We had a number of transition teams that were
organic to the divisions and the units that came into Iraq. For the
most part, those transition teams -- about a third of the transition
teams we had were 40- to 50- to 60-man transition teams. The decision
was made to -- for the other transition teams -- and we have many,
many; almost 300 transition teams throughout the country -- to have
small transition teams, correctly reported in the press of 10 to 12
individuals. But what has not been reported is the fact that those 10
to 12 individuals working at the battalion staff level were partnered
with a unit. They were partnered with a unit that provided that
additional training down to the company and the platoon level. We
believe now that what we need to do is to embed those trainers, to
make that organic as part of the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police.
You know, one of the things that's given us a real good look at
the police in Baghdad is the fact that, along with the Baghdad
Security Plan, we moved five MP companies into Baghdad, made them
training teams for the police. And we basically had a one-on-one
coverage of all the police stations, and we've uncovered some issues
that we've got down at the individual police stations.
The same with the national police. I think you know we're
training the national police a brigade at a time down at Numaniyah.
They're going through a four-week training period at the end of that.
They're issued a new uniform and they're moved back up into Baghdad.
That first brigade, the 4th Brigade, is in Baghdad now. It is in its
own sector with -- plus a PTT team, or NPTT team, we call them --
National Police Training Team. That National Police Training Team has
the capability to be with those national police 24/7. They don't
conduct an operation that there aren't U.S. advisers out there with
them, and that has proved to be very, very effective. But we've got
to change the perception, as we have improved the capabilities of the
national police in and around Baghdad, as being an organization that
handles both Sunnis and Shi'as the same.
So I happen to believe that, as we transition to Iraqi control
and as I hope that we'll see us moving out of some the major
metropolitan areas, that having these larger embedded training teams,
if that's the course of action that General Casey chooses, will be a
real benefit to what we see and a real benefit to the Iraqi army, but
in addition to that, to the Iraqi police and particularly the national
MR. WHITMAN: Jamie.
Q General Chiarelli, Jamie McIntyre from CNN. I know you say
you haven't read the Iraq Study Group recommendations, but certainly
you've heard the conclusion of the panel that the situation in Iraq is
grave and deteriorating and that the ability of the United States to
influence events there is diminishing. Do you agree with that
GEN. CHIARELLI: I think it's fair to say that 2007 -- and I know
this has been said many, many times -- that 2007 will be an absolute
And I think that we will take the right steps militarily. I think
that we will work very, very hard on the Iraqi logistics system, to
get it up into its capabilities, so that it can in fact support its
But I just have to reiterate that I happen to believe that the
economic and political piece of this is so absolutely critical. And
if this has been kind of a shock, what has happened here, for the
Iraqi government, if they can see this as a situation that could
deteriorate rather rapidly if they don't take some of these actions, I
think that with help from us, we could do the kinds of things that are
necessary. We're seeing some help that we're getting from the States
right now in the economic area that's proven to be very, very helpful.
And I think that there are definitely some things that we could
do, some strategies that, from what I know of the report, could be put
in place, that would have tremendous impact in making 2007 a year
where we really move ahead in this particular mission.
MR. WHITMAN: Andrew.
Q General, Andrew Gray from Reuters here. Can I ask you
about a specific incident? As you know, there are very conflicting
reports about this overnight raid in Ishaqi. Local people there are
holding up the bodies of children and saying that civilians have been
killed. What's your understanding of what happened there?
GEN. CHIARELLI: I can tell you I saw that report just as I was
leaving to come over here today. I can promise you that in every one
of these incidents that occurs, that it will be fully investigated. I
think you've seen that in the past. And this one will be fully
investigated if in fact there's any merit to the charges that are
being made, at least from what I've seen in the press. And I promise
you that that's exactly what we'll do.
But having not had an opportunity to talk to commanders or to
look into this in any great depth at this time, I would ask that we
let the system work. And I know that you'll hear from us down the
road if in fact there's any credence to these reports.
MR. WHITMAN: Jonathan.
Q General Chiarelli, Jonathan Karl with ABC News. Two
questions. One, just on the embedded trainers, in your estimation,
how long would it take if -- to quadruple the number of embedded
trainers to train the trainers? How long would that process take?
And then one of the central recommendations, central themes of
the Iraq Study Group is that the Iraqi government needs to be
essentially given disincentives if they do not do what they need to do
and that economic assistance and security assistance should be
withheld if they don't do what they should do.
Given what you've said about how important it is to get the
unemployment rate down, what do you think about that idea of
withholding economic assistance and other assistance, even security
assistance, you know, if the Iraqis don't do it what they're supposed
GEN. CHIARELLI: Well, first of all, on embedded trainers, we're
going through the staff process now of seeing how quick we could do
I think we could it a lot faster than many people would believe. I
don't look at time as being a problem at this particular time. I
think we've got forces in-country that will assist us with that.
There may be requirement for some additional trainers in very specific
areas, but I think a majority -- and there some of the issues -- some
of the plans we're looking at could come from in-country, and I think
that that's something that we can do rather rapidly.
As far as economics, I believe the Iraqi Study Group -- at least
from time with them; I had an opportunity to talk with them when they
were here -- feel as I do, that putting Iraqis back to work is
absolutely critical. When I briefed them and made that point to them,
they were in agreement. And from the little that I've read of the
report so far, I don't see anything in it that in fact goes against
that. And I think the Iraqis understand the importance of that, and I
know that General Casey and the ambassador, along with all of us, are
going to do our best to try to use some of the new information and
some of the new things that we've got to show them how absolutely
critical this is.
And I really think that the process of working them through the
bill portion of the Baghdad security plan, it's been something that
hasn't come on-line as quick as we wanted it to come on-line, I got to
tell you. I wish I was turning a lot more dirt down in those cleared
areas. But I will tell you that we've done some projects down in the
cleared areas, and I will tell you that General Casey recounted to me
this morning that he was down in two or three of those areas just
yesterday, and he came back saying that life has returned to normal in
those areas for the most part -- lots of people out, people who were
out on the street, markets that are open, and life is going on as
normal in many of those areas -- in those areas that he was in. So he
was very pleased with what he saw.
I think we just have to expand this and convince the Iraqi
government that there may be an amount of money that could be spent on
creating jobs for Iraqis that would be just as important as growing
the size of their army above what has already been announced. So I
think that that is a very, very important component of what we need to
do in the upcoming year.
MR. WHITMAN: I think we need to make this our last one.
Q General, this is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra. As a commander
on the ground, why do you think the reconciliation has failed til
now? What are the main problems?
GEN. CHIARELLI: Sir, I'm the operational commander, and the kind
of things that I see when I go out -- I'd ask you to direct that
question to General Casey and to the ambassador. But I will tell you,
one of the things that I get told every time I go out is the one I
mentioned earlier -- provincial elections. I will tell you that many
Iraqis in the many of the provinces feel that that's critical,
particularly some of the Sunni tribal sheikhs that we talk to and
members of the Sunni community that we talk to. And many of them have
told my commanders that set a date for provincial elections and that
will have a big impact.
I think seeing their lives get better is absolutely critical. I
will tell you, one of the things that we did down in the Amiriyah area
was we opened up a bank, a bank that had been shut down for five
months. Now, that may not seem too important to an American that a
bank is open in a neighborhood. But to the people of Amiriyah, that,
and electricity, and working on some sewage problems were the number
one things that they asked us to get fixed. We went through the
process with the minister of Finance of getting the bank, the (inaudible) bank open in Amiriyah. It has proved to be a big boom in making
the people feel that their life is returning back to normal and that
their government is, in fact, doing the kinds of things that they
think are important.
Now, I understand that a small thing like that may not seem to
have the kind of impact that I'm attributing to it, but I will tell
you that a whole bunch of small wins like that, with an increase in
employment, an ability to go after the terrorists wherever they are,
if you take all those things together, it has a tremendous impact, and
I think it would move us toward national reconciliation.
MR. WHITMAN: One last --
Q Can I follow on that?
MR. WHITMAN: (Inaudible) -- and I know we have reached the end
of our time. Is there a critical follow-up there that you needed, Mr.
Q Yes. General, is the U.S. winning in Iraq?
GEN. CHIARELLI: You know, I thought that -- I thought I'd
escaped that one. But militarily, I can say without a doubt that we
We've never been defeated on any battlefield certainly in this
conflict, nor will we be. To ask us if we're winning in Iraq is to
think that one could boil the situation down to a simple yes-or-no
answer, and I don't believe there is a simple yes-or-no answer. I
think it is the wrong question.
The real question that I think we should be asking ourselves is,
are we making the progress toward our strategic objectives? And I
would have to give that answer a yes. Are we moving as fast as I wish
we were and I know General Casey wishes we were toward meeting those
strategic objectives? We are not. And I know that he and the
ambassador are working every single day to figure out ways to further
the progress along those strategic objectives.
I've always told you, sir, that I think that many people back in
the United States do not see the progress that has been made in this
country because they are only showing the daily violence in Baghdad.
And there's a whole bunch of reasons for that. You know and your
comrades know how difficult it is to get in and out even around
Baghdad and around the rest of the country. And I know most of you are
stationed in Baghdad and the level of violence in Baghdad has in fact
been very, very high, much higher than any of us want it to be.
But I will tell you that if it were not for the soldiers, the
Marines, the sailors and the airmen who look the devil in the eye
every single day that they conduct their mission after mission to go
out and, first of all, do their best to keep the sectarian violence
down, and second of all, the promotion of a democratic Iraq, things
would be a lot worse. I believe that with all my heart.
Success does not rest on what we do alone. The real key is for
the Iraqis to win this thing. It rests on the Iraqis, our coalition
partners and Iraq's neighbors to provide stability to this region and
help the Iraqi people build a better future for their children.
So in answer to your question, I would say from the military
standpoint we are winning, and from meeting our strategic goals, yes,
we are moving in the right direction, but not as fast as I know we all
wish we were.
MR. WHITMAN: Well, General, thank you very much for your time.
I know we've gone a bit over, and I appreciate your indulgence. This
has been very illuminating for us.
And again, we just want to thank not only you but also you for
making your subordinate commanders available to us on a weekly basis
to give us the kind of insights that only the commanders on the
ground, in the field, can give us back here in Washington.
GEN. CHIARELLI: Well, sir, I appreciate it.
And I want to thank the press. Many of you have been over here
working under very, very difficult situations, and I know how hard and
tough it is for you, and we appreciate your commitment to getting out
and seeing what's going on. I only wish we could get you out more
into more places to see many of the good things that have happened. I
just returned from two days in Al Anbar here over the weekend, and I
see some great things happening out there.
I'd like to add, though, that in the debate over the events
happening in Iraq, I think that some people have lost sight of the
daily acts of heroism that our service members perform here in the
name of service to our nation and to freedom. I just signed an award
recommendation for a soldier who performed an act of heroism that
saved the lives of his buddies, four of them, and cost his own life in
the process. And I'd like to use this story as an illustration of the
tremendous dedication and sacrifice on the part of our service members
that often goes largely unnoticed.
Serving on a combat patrol as a Humvee gunner, the soldier saw a
hand grenade coming at his vehicle and tried to deflect it. He was
unsuccessful. The grenade slipped past him and into the truck that he
was riding in. He shouted, "Grenade!" and began to jump out of the
truck per the standard grenade drill that the unit had. When he
looked back, he saw that no one else inside the truck had heeded his
warning, that somehow they had thought that his shouting of "Grenade!"
meant that there was a grenade outside the vehicle. And in a singular
act of heroism, this soldier, who was halfway out of the truck,
dropped back into the truck and placed his body against that grenade,
thereby saving the lives of the four other individuals that were
inside that truck.
This is just one example of the daily acts of heroism, courage,
and selfless service our service members perform for each other and
for their Iraqi counterparts. I'm extremely proud of their service
and our service over here. And it's hard to leave knowing that much
work still needs to be done. But the performance of these service
members on the ground is what has made me feel so honored to have been
their commander this last year, and I thank them from the bottom of my
heart for that opportunity.
Thank you very much.
MR. WHITMAN: Thank you, General.
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