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Commander says Iraq war will take time
MG Rick Lynch - photo by Courier file photo
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the Third Infantry Division and Task Force Marne in Iraq, said of the war there.
The general said the division’s Second Brigade Combat Team and aviation brigade will be fully in place in Iraq by the middle of June and will immediately begin combat operations.
The arrival of those two units will complete the buildup of forces, the surge ordered by Pres. Bush to escalate U.S. involvement in the Iraqi war.
Another Fort Stewart unit, the Fourth Brigade Combat Team, is returning from what Lynch described as a “magnificent” training rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. They will head for Iraq in September. The 4th BCT is not part of the surge, but had been scheduled for September deployment as part of the normal Army force generation plan for Iraq.
Lynch cautioned that one consequence of the surge may be increased casualties.
“You’re going to see many more trees planted off Cottrell Field in Warriors Walk,” he said.
One reason for increased casualties, the general said, is that U.S. soldiers are moving out of their fortified Forward Operating Bases and into more direct contact with Iraqis.
Lynch said his soldiers worked in 23 joint security sites where they are fully integrated with Iraqi counterparts.
Even as the general spoke, plans were being made at Fort Stewart for the addition of five more redbud trees in a ceremony Thursday.
Referring to his press conference with local and area media, Lynch said, “This is one of the things we need to be doing – talking to the communities.”
“When my family turns on the TV, all they see is negative... There is good news, too.”
“There’s a big debate over whether or not this war can be won ... over whether we should be here,” he said, noting that “our soldiers don’t pay attention to that because we’re so busy. But our families do.”
As an example, Lynch said the improvements of the Iraqi security forces were not being properly reported. He said he worked closely with two Iraqi generals who were highly competent professionals. “And they’re Iraqi. They’re not Sunni, they’re not Shiite, they’re Iraqi.
“Tell our families back home how much we love them and how much we understand and appreciate their sacrifice, “ he said.
He thanked the coastal Georgia area for looking out for those families, calling it a “caring, gracious, concerned community,”
He expressed appreciation for the organizations and programs working to support the dog-faced soldiers.
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