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Troops in Iraq foresaw no immediate changes in the war in light of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s planned resignation, and many simply said they would just follow orders.

Asked about the resignation, some expressed disappointment. Others were thinking a change might be beneficial.

President Bush is nominating Robert Gates, who served as CIA director under the first Bush administration, to replace Rumsfeld.

“I think it’s awful,” said Spc. Brian Klee of Battery C, 3rd Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment (Airborne), working at Logistics Support Area Anaconda in Balad. “Who’s more qualified than him?

“The guy’s the only guy who’s looking 10, 20 years into the future and they can him,” said a visibly agitated Klee.

Klee said that many of the best solutions for Iraq can be derived from common sense, something he said Rumsfeld possessed in spades.

“It was a shock to me,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Morgan, a member of the 473rd Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar Platoon, a National Guard unit.

Morgan, a Vietnam veteran with almost 30 years of experience in the Army, said he figured if Rumsfeld is quitting, it must be for a good reason, and wasn’t a snap decision.

Morgan, on his third deployment to Iraq, said he thought the resignation may have some direct impact on the political tableaux in the States, but wouldn’t likely mean any quick pullout from the country.

At least two men who said they thought Rumsfeld’s resignation could have a favorable impact on them declined to comment because they said they would get into trouble.

Their chain of command, one soldier said, had made it clear that offering any negative comments about the military — even support for Rumsfeld’s ousting — would come with punitive consequences.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Mark Carabello said the removal of just one man wasn’t enough to trigger sweeping changes in Iraq.

“It’s bigger than just Rumsfeld,” he said.

Whatever happens, he said, little was likely to materialize immediately for U.S. troops in the country.

“I don’t think we’re going to see immediate effects,” he said. “But I think probably in six to 10 months we will.”

The Marine thought Rumsfeld was just the first of many GOP party members to lose their position in a political swing that may have negative consequences for the military, he said.

“It’s hard to say what the Democrats are going to do,” he said. “If they pull us out of here, what happens next?”

The overall aim won’t change, said Staff Sgt. Bobby Middlebrooks of Lexington, Ky., at Camp Taqaddum, west of Baghdad.

“There’s too much instability in Iraq. Until it’s stabilized, the mission won’t change,” he said.

Middlebrooks was heading back to Fort Campbell, Ky., after finishing a year’s deployment in Ramadi with 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. So was his unit mate, Spc. Michael Stonehalder of Troy, Ohio.

“We’re too late in the game to change strategy that much,” Stonehalder said.

As news of Rumsfeld’s resignation played Thursday on a TV during breakfast at the camp’s dining facility, few people stopped to pay attention; most just carried their trays of food past the TV to their seats.

Out of several hundred people eating lunch there, a smattering were reading about the news in Stars and Stripes, which carried the headline, “RUMSFELD RESIGNS.”

Maj. Steven Gonzales of the 969th Quartermaster Battalion read about the resignation Thursday.

“Whatever it takes to get this country (Iraq) on its feet,” said Gonzales, of Quebradillas, Puerto Rico. That’s our intent over here, to assist this country. These are good people here.”

Chaplain (Navy Lt.) Carl Stamper of Marine Air Group 39, flight line chaplain for the base’s casualty evacuation team, said he liked Rumsfeld’s no-nonsense style. But he predicted little would change in Iraq for at least two years.

“It’ll be tough to replace [Rumsfeld],” Stamper said. “It will be interesting to see what the new secretary does.”


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