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3rd ID chief notes improvements in Iraq
Col. Mark McKnight at a ceremony last year - photo by Courier file photo
The Third Infantry Division’s chief of staff prefaced remarks to the news media this week with personal thanks to residents of the Coastal Georgia area for what he called their “unconditional support” for his soldiers.
Col. Mark McKnight, division chief of staff, was standing in for Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, division commander, who was attending a memorial service for a soldier killed in action.
McKnight said, “I’ve been in the Army since 1983 and I’ve been in a lot of places, but Coastal Georgia is the best.”
Moving on to describe the situation in Iraq, McKnight said it was “a complex and extremely challenging” mission. A brigade commander in Operation Iraqi Freedom III, McKnight reported, “marked improvement in the training and equipping of the Iraq army. There is very good progress there.”
In response to a question about the Iraqi police, the colonel said, “There is room for improvement there. ... Unfortunately, it just takes some time to stand up police forces.”
The multi-national force works for a stable, independent Iraq and opposes insurgents fighting against that goal.
“There are extremists in both camps,” (Sunni and Shia) McKnight said. “In fact, of the high value targets we have captured or killed in the last two weeks, it has been about 50-50.”
The colonel said the debates back home about setting a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops got little attention on the ground in Baghdad.
“We’re so engulfed with the day-to-day, week-to-week operation of the division to accomplish the mission we have, there isn’t really much attention given to what political discussion or dialogue is going on back home.”
The colonel reported it was 115 degrees in Baghdad and the heat and conditions, “are a mental and physical drain on our soldiers and they continue to amaze me.”
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