Wednesday | July 16, 2003
"We knew, we just knew"
By Steve Gilliard
The disappointment of the soldiers the 3ID and their families is worldwide news.
Morale crisis as troops' return is delayed
The Pentagon is facing a crisis of morale among American troops in Iraq after thousands of frontline infantry forces were told they would have to stay in the country, despite having been promised they would return home at the end of this month.
The soldiers, fed up with being deployed in stifling summer heat among a population which wants them out, had been led to believe they would be rotated out of Iraq before August. But Major General Buford Blount, their commanding officer told them they would have to stay, "due to the uncertainty of the situation in Iraq", and the recent increase in attacks on US troops - now at up to 25 a day.
Sergeant Chris Grisham, a military intelligence officer with the 3rd Infantry, told Reuters: "We were told three times we would be going home in a couple of months. It is not a good time to announce this. We are demotivated."
Officers claim the men's fighting morale is unaffected by the latest delay in going home. "When we heard General Blount telling us on the radio we had to stay, we shook our heads and said 'We knew,we knew it'," says Captain John Ives, who runs the brigade's civil-military assistance centre from an office in the town hall.
His latest assignment is to take delivery of an army gift of 1,000 bottles of cooking gas to be given to local families. "I left home just after my son's first birthday. If we go home in September as they promise, he'll have had a year without me. But that date is like jello.You know, it wobbles back and forth, no stability.
"After we got the news, we just sat in the officers' house, and quit for two hours. We drank coke and seethed. Then we got up. No more complaints. That was our strike."
Pentagon Sees Possible Delay in Return of the Third Division
Officials said the timetable would be influenced by the availability of other troops to replace the division, whether from the United States or from allies, and the level of security threats in Iraq.
For the first time today, a senior Pentagon official said that options under consideration for finding fresh troops included assigning Marine Corps units to Iraq. Such a mission would be a notable change for forces whose expeditionary doctrine calls for them to seize territory, but not to hold it for lengthy periods
Posted July 16, 2003 02:08 AM