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American Forces Press Service

Deputy Secretary Visits Deploying Task Force

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

FORT DRUM, N.Y., Dec. 20, 2004 -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz got a warm welcome at a town hall meeting here at this wintry northwestern New York state base Dec. 17.

The roughly 600 soldiers from units of the 42nd Infantry Division's headquarters and Task Force Liberty stood and gave a standing, rousing applause when DoD's No. 2 civilian leader entered the room. The division task force is deploying to Iraq.

Army Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief, National Guard Bureau and division commander Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Taluto were among senior leaders joining the deputy secretary.

Wolfowitz reminded the assembly of the division's proud history - past tales that some were too young to remember and recent ones that none of them will ever forget.

He talked about how the division helped end Nazi rule in Germany during World War II by capturing enemy strongholds in Schweinfurt, Nuremburg and Munich, and liberating concentration camps.

And Wolfowitz reminded the soldiers how just three years ago the division responded to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in their own New York City backyard. Division battalions from New York armories responded immediately. And thousands of soldiers from the rest of the division's New York National Guard and the division headquarters sustained security and recovery operations in Manhattan as part of Joint Task Force 42.

The deputy secretary singled out division soldier Army Maj. Chris Ciccone as an example of those who were among the first to respond to the World Trade Center attacks.

A high school teacher in New York City's East Greenwich area, Ciccone said he had "seen what terrorism can do and I don't want to see that ever happen again."

"So if (this deployment) means taking on terrorism where it starts, that's what our job is," the military intelligence officer declared.

Task Force Liberty soldiers appreciated Wolfowitz's visit. "It shows concern that he's coming down to see the troops that are deploying," said Sgt. 1st Class Franklin Smith, 48, a military policeman.

"It's nice that the troops get to see our superiors from the Pentagon coming down to check on us," he noted.

Added Pvt. Nathaniel Deitch, 19, one of the task force's younger members: "That's trooping the line. You know, every good leader should do that."

Division elements, part of the third rotation of troops to Iraq, began their movement toward Iraq in October. The division will lead Task Force Liberty.

When fully assembled in theater, the force will number more than 18,000 soldiers, and will include brigades from the active-duty 3rd Infantry Division and other Army National Guard units from Utah and Tennessee. All told, the task force units will represent some 29 states and is expected to begin arriving in Iraq by mid-January.

Task Force Liberty will operate in the north-central region and will join other Multinational Force Iraq units in carrying out stability operations to create a safe and secure environment for the Iraqi people.

In his remarks, Wolfowitz pointed out how the U.S. military has helped liberate 50 million people for brutal tyranny and that the United States is now safer because of military action taken in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Years from now when the history of the global war of terror is written, it will be your story -- the story of how courageous American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen helped make our country safer and the world more free," he said.

The deputy secretary also issued a warning to terrorists still hiding in Iraq: "The 42nd Infantry Division is coming . and believe me, you ain't seen nothing yet."


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