From the Associated Press:
There are now about 158,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, reflecting a boost of approximately 30,000 to carry out the new strategy that Bush announced in January. The strategy is focused on providing better security for Iraqis in Baghdad, but the intended effect -- a political reconciliation between the Sunnis and Shiites -- has yet to be achieved, and many in Congress are clamoring to begin withdrawing troops soon. Some on the Joint Chiefs had argued against the troop boost in January, in part out of concern that it could not be sustained long enough to have the desired effect and that it put too much strain on the military. ...
Without opining on any new course of action in Iraq, Pace stressed in [an] interview his concern that multiple combat tours for many in the Army and Marine Corps could tear at the fabric of the military. He said that is one reason he is visiting the troops now - to hear their concerns, assess their morale and to explain to them why he advocated extending Army tours from 12 months to 15 months.
He said he also would stop in Germany this week to meet with family members of military units that are affected by tour extensions. These visits are intended to give him a sense of how the military as a whole is holding up under the strain of the Iraq war, now more than four years old, and will be one important factor in what the Joint Chiefs collectively recommend to Bush in September, Pace said.
Click on 'Article Link' below tags for details on his Germany visit...
In the interest of education, article quoted from extensively.
From the Military Family Network:
Over the past week, Marine Gen. Peter Pace personally thanked thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for their service. Today he traveled to this German city to thank their spouses for the very real sacrifices they and their families make in the war on terror. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff began his remarks at Conn Barracks with a simple statement: “Thank you for your service to the country.”
The post here has soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division deployed to Baghdad, and paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team deployed in Afghanistan. Both brigades will serve 15 months in combat.
Pace said the success of the soldiers is heavily dependent on the support the families give them. “What I learned about families I learned most of all in my own kitchen,” the general said. “When we deploy, you stay here and you pray we come home safe. You don’t know when we’re in trouble, therefore you worry every day. When we do come home safe, you stand in the background as we get our awards and you pretend you have nothing to do with it,” he continued. “You had everything to do with it."
“When we get tired, you remind us of how important what we do is to you, to our families and to the nation. I’ve watched military families for 40 years. You serve this nation as well as anyone who has worn the uniform. I’m proud to stand before you and thank you for all you do to keep our nation free.”
On deployment extensions:
Studies in September through November 2006 led to the decision to surge five brigade combat teams into Baghdad and its suburbs. He said the plan called for increasing the number of troops, along with the international community increasing economic development and the Iraqis making political progress.
“As we thought through how we were going to do that, we started to see that a brigade would be extended by 45 days, and another by 73 days and another by such and such amount of time,” he said. “We were on a system where, about 90 days before folks were due to come home, we would then tell that unit that they were going to come home on time, or they would be extended X number of days. “That just jerked people around,” he continued. “It also did not let us plan long-term for the units coming in after that.”
The right thing to do was to extend all active duty Army units going into the country to 15-month tours, he said. “So when you change the calendar on the refrigerator door, you did it once instead of every other week,” Pace told the spouses. “You could have some kind of stability and knowledge of what was going to happen.”
Reaction to Pace's visit and comments:
“I’m surprised the general came here,” said Clara Gaskins. “We’re not exactly a crossroads of the world. He answered many of the questions that I hear people ask. We are all very concerned about the deployment length. Fifteen months is a long time. Some of the young families have babies and they’ll be toddlers when the spouses come home.”
Another spouse said she is willing to make the sacrifices, but wants to know if it is worth it. “We’ve lost many soldiers lately,” Michelle Garner said. “We want to know if they are making a difference.(Pace) put that in perspective.”
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