Troops downrange speak out on Iraq plans
January 12, 2007
BAGHDAD — Troops on Thursday had varied reactions to President Bush’s proposal to add troops in Iraq, with some saying outright it wouldn’t necessarily help the situation.
Servicemembers were asked about Bush’s call to add 17,500 troops to Baghdad and 4,000 to Anbar province.
In east Baghdad, Capt. Steve Simmons, 26, of Brockton, Mass., said his regiment could use additional manpower when it comes to conducting searches, raids, route clearances and other missions.
The missions are carried out more deliberately these days because troops are more careful about the effects of their actions, said Simmons, the fire direction officer for 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment.
But the missions are also slower because of the level of combat power, he said. “We only have so many people in the sector.”
Still, he said, “You own the territory as long as you stand on it.”
Capt. Andy White, 28, also of the 2nd Battalion, added that “the bottom line is that more troops in our battle space would be good.”
But White, from Colfax, Calif., and the operations officer for the battalion, also cautioned: “More U.S. troops, unless combined with Iraqi troops, won’t make a difference in the long run.”
“The problems in our sector are mostly Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence,” he said.
And that’s the kind of trouble that Iraqis, who speak the language and know the culture, are best qualified to handle, he said.
Lt. Col. Wayne Grieme, 42, of Fairbanks, Alaska, White’s commander, said more platoons can help provide security for lower Karada, a restive Baghdad neighborhood, and push forward local projects.
Spc. Genaro Chavez, 27, El Paso, Texas, a fueler for the battalion’s Company G, said on the one hand, more troops “will be more of a help, instead of straining other soldiers.”
But on the other, those troops going home “might have to get ready to come back in six or seven months” instead of a year or more, he said.
Chavez said that having more Iraqi security forces in Baghdad would be good “because it will be good for Iraqi soldiers’ motivation to learn and study from what [U.S. troops] do.”
Asked about additional troops in Baghdad, Spc. Brad Robb questioned the value of sending more troops. “I don’t think that’s good at all,” he said.
“We lost a lot of soldiers, and it’s like, how many guys are you willing to sacrifice to do things right?” said Robb, 22, of Jeanerette, La., with the 2nd Battalion’s Forward Service Company.
Capt. Andrew Ossolinski, 39, of New Hartford, Conn., said the troop increase isn’t enough to make up for the multitude of mistakes made early in the war.
Ossolinski, with the 143rd Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, said he isn’t convinced the strategy of going into Baghdad to clear the neighborhoods will be successful.
“If I were Sadr I would move out for six months and then move back in,” he said, referring to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who heads up the Shiite militias that are behind much of the sectarian violence in the country’s capital.
He also thinks that Bush’s plan isn’t necessarily what will happen.
“There’s a conflict between his plans and what the Democrats have been saying,” he said. “This will play out politically over the coming month.”
Tech. Sgt. Michael Nazerlrod, 41, of Spanaway, Wash., doesn’t agree with the troop increase.
“The only way to control the sectarian violence is by numbers, so I see the necessity for [the troop increase]. But do I agree with it? No,” said Nazerlrod. “It commits more money, manpower and time to this area, and I think we’ve done what we said we were going to do and we need to leave.”
Master Sgt. James Steppe, 44, of Greenville, S.C., thought the troop increase in Baghdad was needed for the Iraqi army and government to effectively take control of the country.
“I think we need to let the Iraqi people know, ‘We’re here to support you, but we’re not going to be here forever,’ ” Steppe said, adding he thought the president did a good job relaying that message in the speech.
He said he wasn’t sure, though, if the Iraqi army would be able to hold up its end of the bargain.
A handful of servicemembers said they watched the speech Thursday morning as it was televised in some of the dining facilities.
But others were unaware Bush was giving a speech or changing strategy in Iraq.
“I don’t pay attention to politics,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Bender, 33, of Fort Riley, Kan., with Troop D, 4th Cavalry Regiment.