Brig. Gen. Stewart Rodeheaver Interview - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports


Brig. Gen. Stewart Rodeheaver Interview

Brig. Gen. Stewart Rodeheaver Brig. Gen. Stewart Rodeheaver
WTOC's Charles Gray got the chance to talk with Brig. Gen. Stewart Rodeheaver via satellite today. Gen. Rodeheaver is in Baghdad, commanding the 48th Brigade of the Georgia Army National Guard. The brigade has been serving with the Third Infantry Division after deploying from Fort Stewart in May, 2005.

WTOC: First off, probably foremost on people's minds here in the Coast Empire and the Savannah area and the Hinesville area, can you tell us anything about when you'll be coming home?

Brig. Gen. Rodeheaver: I can, but first let me say congratulations to the great Third ID, and the job they did over here under Gen. Webster, and Gen. Horst, and Gen. O'Neil. And I know they're just now starting to come home, and we just want to wish them all a safe journey and tell them how proud of them we are. They did a tremendous job over here.

The 48th Brigade has several months left on our mission. What we'll start doing is, mid to late April, I'll start sending people home for advance parties and to get us set. And then starting in early May to mid May, I'll send the rest of the brigade home, try to get all the brigade home by mid to late May.

WTOC: In your time in Iraq, can you tell us what you feel you've accomplished in country?

Brig. Gen. Rodeheaver: The first seven months we were up in south Baghdad, and there we were able to create some local governments. Things like city councils and county commissions areas. We were able to get the tribal leaders who were not in the political process brought into the political process. We were able to put some security in places it had never been before, and also to get the governmental leaders to start understanding that the democratic process was the way to make a change, rather than the violence and shooting at people.

We started some medical clinics, we refurbished a lot of schools. We did quite a few projects as far as civil-military operations to fix water systems and electrical systems. So we helped increase the community way of life for most of the Iraqis in the area.

WTOC: I don't think anyone would describe duty in Iraq as easy. Your unit has suffered some casualties. What have been the biggest challenges?

Brig. Gen. Rodeheaver: The biggest challenges initially are getting the Iraqi people to understand and take control of their own security. You know, the Americans, we're here and we secure the area for them. Then as we start training the Iraqi forces, we stand them up, and get them to start securing the area. More and more, the Iraqi citizens are understanding that it's their job to secure their own area, to take care of their own locations and neighborhoods so that the insurgents don't have a place to hide.

And that's been a challenge, but it's growing very quickly. The Iraqis want to govern their own area, they want to take responsibility for their territories, and they want to keep the insurgents out. They want a peaceful way to live their lives and raise their children, just like we do.

WTOC: I would hazard that experience is the best teacher, even for generals. What's the most important thing you, personally, have learned on this tour?

Brig. Gen. Rodeheaver: I guess the most important thing I've learned is that everybody brings something to the fight. Everybody has some skill, some important information that they bring. And the only you really make it all work together is by bringing all of the parties together to reach an agreement before you try to move forward and make something happen.

The Iraqis here, you know, we didn't come here and try to be occupiers, we didn't try to take over their country. We came in as part of their team. And by doing that, by being a team player with them, and helping them stand up their government, helping them build back their facilities and then turning it over to them, we've been much more efficient, much more effective than I think we would have if we had try to occupy their country and inflict our way of life on them. It's been a very successful mission for us.

WTOC: Back in May, when you were getting ready to deploy from Fort Stewart, you told us that this was the largest National Guard deployment since the Second World War, and that you were very proud to be leading them at the time. What's it been like?

Brig. Gen. Rodeheaver: It's been a challenge. Any time you take this many soldiers across the water and put them in a place where they don't have families and friends here, it's a challenge. It's been very rewarding. We have learned a tremendous amount. The troops have done a fantastic job, and they have really shown the caliber of people they are and the character of soldiers they are. And it's been a very eye-opening experience to a lot of the soldiers I've got, as far as what it takes to create a government or what it takes to create a country out of the shambles that were here. So we learned a lot, we've built a lot of teams within ourselves.

The challenge has been to get them here, get them through this combat safely, and get as many of them home as possible without any damage or more injuries than we've had in the past.

WTOC: How does the Guardsman's experience differ in the present war from past conflicts?

Brig. Gen. Rodeheaver: Well, I think the biggest difference is that, in the past conflicts, the National Guardsmen were mostly mobilized as support troops. In this conflict, we are pure combat troops. My unit is a heavy combat brigade, and we, the first seven months we were here, we were in combat every day. We were not in support of anyone else. We were out on the front lines doing the missions, just like the other brigades of the Third ID. And because of that, we're in combat situations and we've received some casualties. And sometimes people weren't expecting that because they thought a National Guard unit would be a reserve or a support unit, but we were not. We were a straight combat unit, and that made made some different things have to happen within our ranks.

WTOC: We appreciate the work that you're doing over there, and we're looking forward to that homecoming you talked about. Is there anything you would like to add for the folks watching at home tonight?

Brig. Gen. Rodeheaver: Really just like to say thanks for the support. We received so many letters and packages during Christmas, that it looked like Christmas for several days in a row here. And I just want to say thanks to the people for supporting our soldiers and for their thoughts and prayers. And we'll be home some.

WTOC: Okay, well, you certainly have our thanks. Thank you for joining us, General.

Brig. Gen. Rodeheaver: Thank you very much.

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