Many in the Coastal Empire wonder and worry about the level of progress in Iraq. The commander for Fort Stewart's troops detailed an update Thursday.
Home from Iraq for a few days, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said American troops have made progress there. He stated attacks against his Third Infantry soldiers have dropped in the area they patrol roughly the size of West Virginia.
"Averaging four attacks a day now. It was 30 a day when we got there," he said. "Casualty rates are way down. Iraqi nationals casualty rates are way down."
Gen. Lynch said it could still take four or five more years to undo the decades of sectarian violence that have created the turmoil. He said a new Iraq comes with a price he remembers constantly.
"I carry the pictures of the fallen soldiers from Task Force Marne. The deck grows," he said as he pulled the stack from his uniform pocket. "These are 104 soldiers. Every day I ask, did we do everything to prevent this loss? The answer is a resounding yes."
While Gen. Lynch acknowledged the 104 soldiers lost since the division returned to Iraq, he said many Americans, for whatever reason, don't hear much about the 2,000 bad guys they've captured or killed. He said national media coverage coupled with the public's short attention span keeps the message from hitting home. He said the slow but steady progress is hardly glamorous, but Americans should know it is there.
"I'm optimistic Iraq will achieve a state of peace with its neighbors, be an ally in the war on terror," he maintained.
Until then, his soldiers and others must press on.
Gen. Lynch will spend next week touring Walter Reid Medical Center and others where Third Infantry troops continue to recover. From there, he'll return to Iraq for approximately nine more months.