Secretary of Army Visits Fort Stewart - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/21/06

Secretary of Army Visits Fort Stewart

"They know exactly what they have to do, they know where they are, know where they are going, know how they are going to get there." That's the impression the Secretary of the Army walked away with from his meeting with the 3rd ID. A division he calls a model division. Dr Francis Harvey says, "Their retention rate was 139-percent of its goal. That led all divisions that weren't deployed."

Harvey took time today to talk with 3rd ID soldiers, listen to their questions and problems, and tell them what's being done to protect them during battle. "If there's a new IED, if there's a new something at the battlefield its on our training base in 48 hours."

But the question on all their minds was when is the 3rd ID going back to Iraq, and how long will they be there. While Harvey wouldn't give any specific timetable for that, he did outline a plan that would get soldiers home sooner, making families happier. "If you do it this way its 6 months on, 2 years home, 2 months on, like bookends."

The secretary says he won't sacrifice soldier's safety in the process. The Iraqi security force has to be ready before American troops can begin pulling back. "The vulnerability period is for the first 6-8 weeks and the last 6-8 weeks. The more deployments you have the more you are exposing soldiers to dangers and we don't want to do that. When they can demonstrate they can provide that security and the Iraqi government has confidence in that then we can back off"

The shorter deployment plan is NOT in place yet, but Harvey says if the Iraqi forces get up to speed it could be soon. The 3rd I-D's First Brigade is already in training to head back to Iraq for a third tour, possibly as soon as this fall. They are expected to be sent for a full year, but the Secretary says it is possible they would be the first group to fall under a new set of rules.

Reported by Andrew Davis, adavis@wtoc.com

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