I was accused of not supported the troops on Matt Cunningham’s site last week since I defended the new Iraqi spending bill passed by the House and Senate that faces an almost certain presidential veto.Ã‚Â I covered the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum in my last full time news job with an upstate NY radio station and have great affinity for the work this special group of cold weather soldiers does.
But I confess I’m struck by who gets to decide what constitutes supporting the troops or not.Ã‚Â Here’s a story that ran today on AP.Ã‚Â Then jump to the end to see the transcriptÃ‚Â of a speech George Bush gave to the VFWÃ‚Â in 2000 in his race against Al Gore.Ã‚Â Who supports the troops?Ã‚Â
Stretched army sends troops back to Iraq
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
Tue Apr 3, 2:06 AM ETÃ‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â For just the second time since the war began, the Army is sending large units back to Iraq without giving them at least a year at home, defense officials said Monday. The move signaled how stretched the U.S. fighting force has become.
A combat brigade from New York and a Texas headquarters unit will return to Iraq this summer in order to maintain through August the military buildup President Bush announced earlier this year. Overall, the Pentagon announced, 7,000 troops will be going to Iraq in the coming months as part of the effort to keep 20 brigades in the country to help bolster the Baghdad security plan. A brigade is roughly 3,000 soldiers.
The Army will try not to shorten the troopsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ U.S. time, Ã¢â‚¬Å“but in this case we had to,Ã¢â‚¬Â said a senior Army official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Obviously right now the Army is stretched,Ã¢â‚¬Â the official said.
The 4th Infantry Division headquarters unit from Fort Hood, Texas, will return to Iraq after a little more than seven months at home Ã¢â‚¬â€ the largest departure to date from the ArmyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s goal of giving units at least a yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rest after every year deployed. The 1st Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, based at Ft. Drum, N.Y., will go back to Iraq after just 10 1/2 months at home.
The only other major unit to spend less than one year at home was the Georgia-based 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, which returned to Iraq 48 days short of a year and is there now, according to the Army.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman acknowledged that the Texas unitÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 81 day shortfall in rest time, Ã¢â‚¬Å“is not insignificant.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only so many division headquarters,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It reflects that this is a military that is in conflict. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re obviously using a significant portion of the combat units of the force. And itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a reflection of the realities that exist right now.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Whitman said the latest deployment orders released Monday would also require the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division Headquarters unit to stay in Iraq for about 46 days longer than its planned year.
Defense officials and military leaders disagreed last week over how long it will take to determine if the latest buildup Ã¢â‚¬â€ which added five brigades to what had been a fairly consistent level of 15 brigades in Iraq Ã¢â‚¬â€ is working.
Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the militaryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s chief spokesman in Iraq, said commanders wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know until at least autumn when they can begin to bring troop levels back down. A day later Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a congressional committee that he was disturbed to hear that comment, and he said commanders should be able to make the evaluation by summer.
So far two of the five Army brigades planned for the buildup are in Baghdad, and a third is moving in now. All five will be there in June.
The ArmyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stated goal is to give active-duty soldiers two years at home between overseas combat tours. But that has been largely impossible because the Army does not have enough brigades to meet the demands of simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The latest buildup increased the demands, but until recently the Army had been able to give units at least a year break.
Military leaders say the 12 months are needed so the units can rest and then become adequately trained and equipped to go back.
Throughout the war, some smaller, more specialized units have had to deploy without 12 months rest. The Pentagon is currently developing a policy that would provide additional pay to units that donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get the year break.
Other deployments announced Monday include:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ The 18th Airborne Corps Headquarters unit, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., will go to Iraq in November
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ The 1st Armored Division Headquarters, based in Wiesbaden, Germany, will go in August
In addition to the 7,000 newly announced deployments, Whitman said about 2,000 military police have gotten their orders to go to Iraq. Gates announced last month that commanders requested about 2,200 military police. About 200 were already there and had their tours extended to meet the request, according to the Army.
Also, the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, which is currently in Iraq, will serve a full year there and return home in January 2008 rather than in September as originally planned.
According to his own words, Bush has failed:Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The facts are stark and the facts are real. . . Our men and women in uniform love their country more than their comfort. They have never failed us, and we must not fail them. But the best intentions and the highest morale are undermined by back-to-back deployments, poor pay, shortages of spare parts and equipment, and rapidly declining readiness.Ã¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬Å“. . .these are signs of a military in decline and we must do something about it. The reasons are clear. Lack of equipment and material. Undermaning of units. Overdeployment. Not enough time for family. Soldiers who are on food stamps, and soldiers who are poorly housed. Dick Cheney and I have a simple message today for our men and women in uniform, their parents, their loved ones, their supporters: Help is on the way!Ã¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬Å“A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam. When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear, and the victory must be overwhelming.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“To build morale in todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s United States military we must keep faith with those who have worn the uniform in the past. We must keep faith with AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s veterans. . . And keeping faith also means giving our veterans first-rate health care and treating the veterans with dignity. . . So chaotic is the process there is now a backlog of nearly one half-million claims. This is no way to treat any citizen, much less a veteran of our armed forces. The veterans health-care system and the claims process will be modernized, so that claims are handled in a fair and friendly way.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“In my Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs will act as an advocate for veterans seeking benefit claims, not act as an adversary. Veterans who once stood in the line of fire to protect our freedom should not have to stand in the line of a bureaucracy that is unwilling to help them in their claims.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬â€George W. Bush VFW Speech – August 21, 2000