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The morale of US troops in Iraq

General Sullivan contributes this to the debate about the status of the US forces in Iraq and their reasons for joining the military: "Responding to Tim Ashby, yes, soldiers are fristrated in Iraq, but that problem is being handled day by day, and it's getting better each day as war and occupation are not clinical exercises. There is no difference between an active duty soldier or a National Guardsman or Reservist as far as serving in Iraq. Those National Guard and Reserve units, many times, have talents and skills not held in the active forces. Reserve units are called up when they are needed, and all are volunteers. The normal Reserve/National Guard pay system in the US is very generous as the Reservist gets paid for four days work when he only works two days on a once a month drill weekend. Many join the Reserves to augment their income and be able to receive a retirement check at age 60 after they have earned enough retirement points. This seems to outweigh the chance that they can get called up in the middle of a school year or from a higher paying job. There are several cases of Reservist retiring without ever serving more than two weeks on active duty per year, attended 12 drill weekends and have never been deployed overseas. Many Reservists never reach the higher ranks as they can't afford to take off from their civilian job or school for six months to a year to attend a formal technical school. Being in the Reserve infantry units alleviates those problems and the Reserve or Guard unit close to your hometown may only offer a local infantry unit to join. The fact that they want to go home from Iraq is understandable, but the mission is not complete and they are part of a bare minimum force to get the job done. Had DOD sent the force the size of Desert Storm, public opinion would have eroded due to the spin of the media and the liberal Democrats in Congress. Fox News and others are reporting the frustration, but nobody is reporting the gains made. That's why I sent you the opposite side of the story but you chose not to post them. I'm as frustrated as anyone over the loss of American life in Iraq, but we are there and must see it through to an acceptable conclusion. I'm very proud of the 18,000 Marines still in Iraq as they have lost only one Marine to date to enemy action since 19 April and I have seen no emails or media reports indicating that they are frustrated or damning the Administration or their superiors. When the CG, Ist Marine Division was asked how come their casualties had been so low since the main combat ended in April, he responded they'd taken all sorts of actions taken to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis, especially the youth, which included losing many soccer games but building trust. Granted that the Marines are in the southern half of Iraq with mainly Shiites and not patrolling the locations where many are still loyal to Saddam but it's still very dangerous. Maj Gen Mattis stated that the Iraqis have learned that a Marine is the best friend you could ever have or the worst enemy!"

RH. Mike sent me several letters from soldiers in Iraq with high morale. I reported on them, but we have so much material that it was impossible to publish the full texts. It is the nature of the media, especially TV, not the liberalism of reporters, that results in a distortion of the news. Shots of people being killed satisfy public demand for violence, but building a school is pretty unexciting. Soldiers' gripes also feed the demand for negative news. The Pentagon has been stressing the positive achievements of the Coalition in Iraq, and it is important that the job be completed so that the US leave behind a legacy of which it can be proud. From Mike's account of the pay system, it is clear that some people join the Reserve National Guard simply for the money. There should be a study of the motivation of soldiers; there may well be. What was the motivation of the Muslim soldier who threw a grenade into a tent where US soldiers were sleeping? What happened to him?

Ronald Hilton - 7/27/03