Thousands of our Third Infantry Division soldiers are in Iraq while their loved ones and livelihoods have been left behind. While the President asks for more funding and Congress talks of timelines, Major General Rick Lynch says the Third ID is focusing on the mission at hand.
This morning, he talked with us live from Camp Victory in Baghdad. He said negativity affects the morale of our soldiers. He'd like people to be more optimistic and remember they're making changes for the better in Iraq.
Nearly a month after the Third ID cased their colors at Marne Garden, symbolizing their move from Fort Stewart to Iraq, they unfurled the flags over Baghdad.
"Today, we engage the colors of this great division," Major General Lynch told Third ID soldiers at Camp Victory. "We begin the next chapter in the history of this magnificent division." This is the Third ID's third tour of duty in Iraq.
"Sixty percent of these soldiers have been here before," explained Major General Lynch. "I, personally, only left here 10 months ago, so you do kind of jump into the conversation well prepared and you're used to dealing with the Iraqi people. You're used to the terrain and the weather."
Still it's tough to be away from your loved ones, whether you're a private or a two-star General. "We miss our families dearly," he said. "I mean, I, personally, and all my soldiers close our eyes and think of our families, but we're focused on the mission here."
Already, he said members of the First Brigade Combat Team, who deployed in January, are making a difference in Ramadi. "When they got here in January, there were an average of about 75 attacks a day in Ramadi," said Major General Lynch. "Now, there's less than two a day out there."
He said murders are also down from 14 to about seven a day. He believes the coalition, working with the people of Iraq, is making progress. "I see Iraqi security forces conducting missions on their own," he said. "I see Iraqi security forces embracing the idea that it's their business to fight and win this counter-insurgency operation."
While positive changes are happening, the Third ID's commander acknowledges their work will take time. "There is a potential that we could be here for longer than a year and I've counseled everybody to think it through that potentially this could be an 18 month deployment," he said. "Candidly, we've got to continue to stay here and continue to make progress."
Major General Lynch said he'll continue to update the people of the Coastal Empire and Low County on the Third ID's mission by talking with us again.
Here's another way you can stay in touch with our troops. It's a new Internet program by the Department of Defense called "Share the Story." You can read our service members' stories and experiences firsthand at http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10969&Itemid=146.