Saturday, July 21, 2007

Unbelievable Bravery And Progress

This should make anyone proud to be an American:

LT. GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, thanks, Bryan. I would like to make a statement here very quickly, just to conclude.

As you all know — and I know they make you proud, too, but all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of the coalition continue to make me extremely proud every day as I watch them execute an extremely complex and difficult mission under very tough conditions, especially now, in the summer, where it’s 125 degrees during the day. And not a day goes by that their bravery, dedication and professionalism is not highlighted to me.

Late last month I was provided with yet another example just how extraordinary these fine young men and women truly are. Just south of Ramadi, a patrol from Charlie Company, 177 Armor, was engaged with sustained automatic weapons fire. Attack helicopters and close air support were dispatched to engage an enemy that was firmly entrenched, well-armed and determined.

Charlie Company quickly noticed that they had discovered an enemy staging area hidden on an island south of Ramadi and quickly took the fight to the enemy in a fierce engagement that would last for over 24 hours.

As one of the Apache teams — Apache helicopter teams returned from a refueling run, Chief Warrant Officers Alan Crist (sp) and Kevin Pertee (sp) noticed a wounded soldier and that a medevaced aircraft had yet to arrive.

In the face of enemy fire, they landed their Apache helicopter, and I remind you that’s a two-seated helicopter. Following a seldom-used technique, they loaded Specialist Jeffrey Jamaleldine into the front seat of the Apache helicopter while one of the pilots strapped himself to the aircraft’s wing. They flied him, then, to an area where he could be attended to by medics.

Such courage and bravery is seldom seen in today’s world, but it’s what I have come to expect from the amazing men and women here in Iraq. This is not just a story of valor, however; it has what has become known as the Battle of Donkey Island. The soldiers of 177 Armor were fighting a large AQI element attempting to undertake a series of spectacular attacks within Ramadi. Those found were housed in a large tractor trailer accompanied by a second trailer filled with weapons. They were dressed in white dishdas (ph), running shoes and were found amongst a large cache of suicide vests.

The nature of their journey was very telling. No longer were they able to take a direct route into what was once a stronghold for them. These fighters were forced to take drastic measures to get even five kilometers outside of the city. They were forced to do this because, along with our Iraqi partners we have drastically increased presence throughout the theater. The plus-up has allowed us to find, fix and destroy the enemy at places like Donkey Island before it was able to inflict its violence on the Iraqi people.

After one month increased operations and patrols, we are now beginning to feel the full effects. Cache by cache, operation by operation we are diminishing the enemy’s ability to operate. There will come a time when we’ll truly be able to leave the responsibilities of security to the Iraqis, but until that day comes, there is still work to be done.

With the progress that has been made over the last few months of this operation, that day may not be far — too far into the future, but we are not yet there. But the Iraqi people have shown they believe the time is now to bring this country together and move to a more peaceful future.

Recently, my sergeant major visited a Marine unit on the outskirts of Ramadi when he struck up a conversation with a young lance corporal. This young Marine was on his second deployment in his many years in the Marine Corps. When asked what his first tour was like in the same area, he explained how they fought from the day they arrived until the day they went home. He went on to say that the deployment this time was entirely different, witnessing rebuilding projects, more Iraqi security forces, more normal, daily routines and a dramatic improvement in the security situation.

He then looked at my sergeant major and asked, “We’re not going to be given enough time to finish this, are we, Command Sergeant Major?”

I’ll just end it with that. I hope that that young Marine warrior is wrong. Thank you for your time, and I appreciate having the opportunity to talk with all of you. Thank you.

MR. WHITMAN: Well, General, thank you for yours and for the full hour that you’ve given us and for your constant support of this program and making your subordinate commanders available to us. And we hope to have you again very soon. Thank you.

LT. GEN. ODIERNO: Okay. Thank you.

Courtesy Pat Dollard

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