HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE
DUNCAN HUNTER – CHAIRMAN
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: Josh Holly (202) 225-2539
February 7, 2006
…No Broken Army Here
By: U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
There are some people these days who say that ’s Army and Marine Corps are broken, falling apart, and that we soon must bring our troops home from . To those critics I say, explain that to Command Sergeant Major Stephen Blake of the 101st Airborne Division.
Blake is assigned to the Rakkasan Armament Program Facility at Camp Speicher in Tikrit. That’s where we met up with him last week as he showed our congressional delegation his soldiers’ latest innovations to protect troops from roadside bombs. We saw how they welded additional steel plating on the newest fully-armored Humvee (the M1114), and five-ton trucks—so skillfully and seamlessly that the vehicles still looked like they’d just rolled off the factory floor. Blake said that some call such field handiwork “hillbilly armor.” But being from Appalachia , the enterprising soldier told us he prefers to call it “Appalachian armor” instead.
Whatever you call it, Stephen Blake and his team are making soldiers safer—and even more effective—with their own dedication and innovation.
I saw those same qualities among the soldiers who let me ride in their Buffalo, a heavily-armored vehicle equipped with a camera and long probe, while they deftly demonstrated how they locate and disarm improvised explosive devices, the deadliest threats to our troops today.
In the middle of the desert, I saw true professionalism and tireless dedication in five other young troops who were standing next to a Humvee mangled by a makeshift bomb. They radiated calmness as they discussed their next mission as if it were a trip to a football game.
This is all in a day’s work for our troops. And it’s all part of the larger job of building a free . The work is painstaking and tough, but our troops do it knowing that, because of ’s help, terrorists and insurgents have been unable to discourage Iraqis from building their own democratic institutions. Our uniformed men and women take obvious pride in being part of a process that, in a relatively short time, has produced an Iraqi constitution and national elections that drew even more citizens into Iraq’s democratic process. ’s political system may be fragile and it may still move slowly, but they’ll tell you that what’s important is that it is moving, offering a means for significant positive change in the Middle East .
The Iraqi army is an important part of that progress. The Iraqi brigade commanders we met in Fallujah—along with the Marines who were overseeing their training—were encouraging. They told us that Iraqi troops were developing and increasingly holding their ground—an assessment seconded by a particularly reliable source: an enlisted Marine who served alongside Iraqi soldiers in battle. I met this fine young man at Landstuhl Medical Center in , where he was being treated for an injury he suffered during a firefight in Fallujah.
He said the Iraqis stood their ground against the insurgents and “did well.” This is in contrast to the green Iraqi troops who abruptly left the battleground in Fallujah nearly two years ago. Americans know that the Iraqi military is not going to reach the proficiency level of the United States Marines or the 101st Airborne. The good news is they don’t have to.
Last week in his State of the Union address, President Bush told the nation that, should we leave Iraq to fend for itself, “we would signal to all that we no longer believe in our own ideals or our own courage.”
Make no mistake. There is no crisis of belief among our troops—either about ’s ideals or their own abilities and resolve. They know they send a powerful signal, both to their Iraqi allies and the enemies they fight, which is this: Our soldiers and Marines aren’t broken, they aren’t falling apart. They have nowhere near the anxiety level of the critics. And they are winning.
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, recently spent three days in Iraq with the II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), 101st Airborne Division, 4th Infantry Division, and Multi-National Forces Iraq on fact-finding mission.