Our State Adjutant General, MG Lempke, and State Commander Sergeant Major, CSM Shunk, made a trip to Iraq this past week. It was good to see them out and about visiting the troops. There are currently around 650 Nebraska Guardsmen here in Iraq, and they visited us and a few other troops.
On returning back to the states, he commented on his visit in this story on Omaha.com. Here are some quotes from MG Lempke:
"I came away feeling that we've made an investment there that still has the potential to pay off for us, but it's not quite ready," said Maj. Gen. Roger Lempke.
"We need to be careful before we start talking about pulling out. But we do need to find new ways to pressure the government there to understand that we're not going to be the primary force forever," he said.
He also makes a nice analogy here that kind of matches what I posted last week about Secretary Rumsfeld's departure.
Lempke said he is hopeful that Rumsfeld's departure might foster renewed debate on U.S. strategy in Iraq, even if he disagrees with calls to withdraw from the country.
"When you know how the boss feels about something, you don't walk into the office with opinions that vary too much. Now, you'll see some freer discussion of strategy and tactics, which I think would be a good thing," he said.
I was lucky enough to get to have lunch with the General along with some of the other Nebraska soldiers. And, I was even luckier to get a coveted coin from him. For those of you unfamiliar with this tradition, the senior leaders carry around commemorative "coins" with them, usually the size of a silver dollar and bearing their unit symbol, rank, motto, or something else memorable. They hand them out to soldiers as a way of saying thanks. So, that was pretty cool.
Additionally, just yesterday SFC Kerchal and I were walking to chow for lunch when CSM Hall stopped and picked us up and gave us a ride. He and LTC Apprich share one of 2 NTV (non-tactical vehicles aka Ford Explorer) in the Squadron, so we got to ride in style. When we got there we happened to walk in at the same time as CSM Beam, who is the CSM for Multi-National Corps - Iraq, which is our higher-higher-higher headquarters. We got to watch as the CSMs partook in their favorite past time, which is making on the spot corrections for soldiers with uniform deficiencies. Sleeves rolled up on your ACU? Wrong answer, fix it. Wearing a non-authorized US flag? I don't think so. Hair too long? Get it cut. Good stuff, it is fun to watch the soldiers' faces as they realize that who they are getting corrected by. As we were wrapping up lunch, CSM Beam hooked us up with one of his coins for our hard work. So, I went from January 2002 (coin from 1SG Valenzuela for guarding the airport after 9/11) to 2 coins in 2 weeks. Pretty sweet.
If I may continue on with the politics, General Abizaid, the commander of all forces in the Mideast, had a little meeting on the hill earlier this week. Here is a quote that I really liked:
"With regard to hope not being a method, Senator [Clinton], I agree with you, and I would also say that despair is not a method," he said. "When I come to Washington, I feel despair. When I'm in Iraq with my commanders, when I talk to our soldiers, when I talk to the Iraqi leadership, they are not despairing."
First of all, I have to give Mrs. Bill Clinton props for using "hope is not a method" which is one of my favorite lines. That is the last time you will probably here me give Hillary any props so don't get used to it. Second, I think with a few exceptions most serving over here understand why we are here and support the effort. Granted some days are worse than others, but generally the soldiers doing the fighting and dying support this war. Failure is simply not an option if we want a safe America. I posted a while back about our nations failure to react to any terrorist activity from '83 to '01 and how this weakness may have contributed to 9/11. How much more so will be viewed as weak by our enemies that have vowed to destroy us and our way of life if we leave the job unfinished? I think our media has already gone a long way to aiding and abetting the enemy in this endeavor by continuing to push the stories that show this effort in a negative light. The withdrawal of US forces at this point would solve nothing other than emboldening our enemies and leaving us vulnerable to attack.