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Cucolo: Troops not returning early
Commander home on leave
FRG check 005
Third Infantry Division commanding general Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, far left, accepts a $20,000 donation to the Supplemental Mission Fund from Clyde’s Markets owner Greg Woolard and his son, Jake Woolard, Tuesday during a Family Readiness Group round-up at Club Stewart. Fort Stewart garrison commander Col. Kevin Milton, far right, looks on. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
Third Infantry Division commanding general Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo dispelled rumors and offered an update on the deployment to Iraq during a surprise appearance Tuesday at a Family Readiness Group round-up on Club Stewart.
Cucolo, currently on mid-deployment leave, also thanked FRG leaders, advisors and volunteers for assisting Army families especially during difficult times.
“Iraq is still a very dangerous place,” he said gravely.
Cucolo said many brand new soldiers on their first deployment to Iraq wonder “Where’s the heavy fighting?” Veteran soldiers who have three or four deployments under their belts often tell first-time soldiers to be glad of the relative calm, and advise them to “Be on their guard,” he said.
The 3rd ID commander said although progress has been made in Iraq, such as the parliamentary elections in March and better trained Iraqi security forces, there are still terrorist groups waging war on Americans. Al Qaida in Iraq is reforming, he said.
Cucolo said once Iraq’s new coalition government is in place, American forces will have a better idea of how the troop drawdown will proceed. That should happen in the next week or so, he said.
“No one is coming home early,” Cucolo said. “And no one is being extended right now.”
The general said most of Fort Stewart’s soldiers will redeploy between Oct. 21 and Dec. 3. He advised spouses and family members to count 12 months plus “a week or two” from when their soldiers deployed, to determine when they would return. Some 3rd ID soldiers might have to stay two to three weeks beyond their expected return, he said.
“And (then) we’re done in Iraq,” the general said. “We can certainly draw down to the 50,000 (service members) we want to reach on Sept. 1.”
Cucolo said the 3rd ID has lost 16 soldiers during this deployment. Six were killed in action, and 10 others were lost to suicides and vehicle roll-overs, he said.
“I lost four to two different helicopter crashes,” Cucolo said gravely. “We’ve had 105 soldiers wounded in action. The good news is less than 20 of them are in some form of follow-on care. Most of them are coming back to active duty.”
The general told FRG representatives they have done “a remarkable job” assisting families who lost loved ones or were coping with soldiers’ serious injuries.
The general also accepted a $20,000 donation to the installation’s Supplemental Mission Fund from Clyde’s Markets owner Greg Woolard of Glennville.
Cucolo said Woolard’s generosity embodies the “warmth and welcoming support” many business people and residents in Coastal Georgia have shown soldiers and their families.
“This is one example of the support we get outside the gates,” the general said.
Woolard said he meets people who make a point to tell him if they have a loved one in the military.
“It touches everybody,” Woolard said.
The donation will be used to fund FRG activities, said Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield Mobilization and Deployment Manager Linda Moseley.
Cucolo, who is scheduled to relocate after his next block leave following redeployment, said the 3rd ID “is a crown jewel” of commands.
The general said he has “no clue” what his next post division assignment will be.
“I want to stay here as long as I can,” he said.
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