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US Troops Morale Low, National Guard May Be Called Up
Jul 17, 2003
Source: News Agencies
Fed up with being in Iraq and demoralized by their role as peacekeepers in a risky place, a group of U.S. soldiers aired their plight on U.S. television Wednesday and said they had lost faith in the Army.
Told several times they would be going home only to have their hopes dashed this week, a small group of soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq, spoke of poor morale and disillusionment with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "If Donald Rumsfeld were here, I'd ask him for his resignation," one disgruntled soldier told ABC's "Good Morning America" show. Asked by a reporter what his message would be for Rumsfeld, another said: "I would ask him why we are still here. I don't have any clue as to why we are still in Iraq."
About 146,000 U.S. troops are serving amid mounting security threats in postwar Iraq. The death toll has now equaled the number killed in the 1991 Gulf War.
Sgt. Filipe Vega, said they had expected to return home soon after the fall of Baghdad on April 9. "We were told the fastest way back home is through Baghdad and that's what we did. Now we are still here," he complained.
The 3rd Infantry Division was the first U.S. unit to enter Baghdad after driving through southern Iraq from Kuwait.
Sgt. Terry Gilmore described a phone call with his wife, Stacey, when he told her he would not be coming home soon. "When I told her she started crying and I almost started crying. I just felt like my heart was broken. I could not figure out ... how they could keep us here after they told us we were coming home."
Commenting on troop frustration, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president was grateful for the sacrifices being made by soldiers in Iraq. "We will continue to make sure they have all the support and resources they need as they do their job," he said.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said she understood the frustration, but said morale was still high. "It's obviously a frustrating situation for some of them, but it does not represent the entire 3rd Division."
Appearing on the same show, Stacey Gilmore said U.S. troops were ill-prepared for the post-war phase. "They were told after the fighting ended they were coming home. All I know is that morale is low and they are just hanging in there, sticking through it."
National Guard May Be Called Up
The Pentagon could start a call-up of as many as 10,000 U.S. National Guard soldiers by this winter to bolster forces in Iraq and offset a lack of troops from allies, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
Missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the U.S. military thin, the report said, and soldiers there still face danger every day.
One senior U.S. defense official, asked by the Journal if he had ever seen the Army stretched so thin, said: "Not in my 31 years" of military service.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is expected to sign off later this week on a plan that would set up rotations to relieve Marine and U.S. Army soldiers stationed in Iraq, the newspaper said, citing a Pentagon official.
About 146,000 U.S. troops are serving in postwar Iraq amid mounting security threats. The U.S. death toll of 147 combat deaths has now equaled the number killed in the 1991 Gulf War.
National Guard soldiers would likely not be deployed until March or April after they complete two or three months of training, the paper said. Their lengths of service could last 12 to 16 months each including training.
The Pentagon was driven to consider calling in the troops because some U.S. allies have chosen not to send in large contingents of their own, the report said.
Twenty-one of the Army's 33 active-duty combat brigades are already in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea and the Balkans, the paper said. Three other brigades cannot currently be sent abroad, leaving nine brigades, or 45,000 troops, as relief for deployed soldiers, the report said.
Some of those forces are being held back in case they are needed near North Korea or in Afghanistan, further limiting U.S. options in Iraq, the Journal said