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American Forces Press Service

Leaders Highlight Troop Quality, Dedication

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2005 The American men and women fighting in Iraq believe in their mission, and the Iraqi people appreciate what the U.S. military has done for them, top military leaders told the House Armed Services Committee here today.

Three senior leaders from the Army and Marine Corps who have served multiple tours in Iraq testified at the hearing, titled "Your Troops: Their Story." The leaders spoke about the quality of America's servicemembers and their dedication to duty.

"In all of my experiences -- both tours -- in all of the improvised-explosive-device attacks I either observed or came up on immediately after they happened and all the gunfights I observed, I never once saw one of these young Americans -- and many of these young Americans include soldiers who were working with us -- I never saw one of them hesitate," said Marine Brig. Gen. John F. Kelly, legislative assistant to the Marine Corps commandant.

Kelly, who was deployed to Iraq twice as the assistant division commander of 1st Marine Division, said that when troops were faced with a level of danger that most people couldn't even imagine, they did exactly what they were expected and trained to do. "It never ceased to amaze me," he said.

The men and women who make up today's Army are every bit as devoted and far more capable than those who served before them, because the Army is an evolutionary institution that changes with American culture, said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Ciotola, set to become command sergeant major of 3rd Corps, at Fort Hood, Texas.

"Our nation's youth today possess a level of individual capability and mental dexterity that continues to surpass each generation that served before it," Ciotola said.

American soldiers are challenged every day, whether they are in training or on deployments, and they always live up to the challenges, he said.

"I have come to realize that the American soldier, regardless of his or her military occupational specialty, will do whatever is necessary when properly led," he said.

Ciotola was deployed as the command sergeant major of 2nd Brigade Combat Team and 1st Cavalry Division. He said he worked and fought alongside soldiers from all walks of life and was impressed by their ability, resiliency, character, determination and resolve. Soldiers in Ciotola's unit worked in neighborhood and district advisory councils, repaired and resupplied schools, rebuilt sewage-treatment systems, trained Iraqi security forces, and revitalized irrigation systems, among other things, he said.

"We left Baghdad and, for that matter, Iraq in a better posture than when we first arrived," he said. "I have no doubt that through our continued engagement, the Iraqi people will ultimately enjoy a far greater degree of self-determination than they have ever known."

The effects of U.S. military reconstruction efforts can be seen immediately in the gratitude of the Iraqi people, who welcome the troops, said Army Col. Robert Abrams, 1st Cavalry Division chief of staff.

"We may not have always agreed on how we were doing certain things, but our presence was certainly always wanted," said Abrams, who served in Iraq as the commander of 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

U.S. soldiers take pride in securing Iraq and making it a more prosperous country, Abrams said, and they are the key to success against terrorism.

"Security in the region comes not just from the application of traditional military force, but from sustained application of resources across a wide spectrum of activities. And furthermore, security comes from soldiers who treat Iraqis with dignity and respect and who act in a professional manner whenever they interact with the populace," he said. "These soldiers -- our soldiers -- are our best ambassadors as they earn the trust and confidence of the Iraqi people, one Iraqi family at a time."

All the leaders emphasized that servicemembers they have come in contact with are proud to serve their country and are motivated by a sense of duty.

"Our soldiers remain proud and wholly committed to our mission of rebuilding Iraq," Abrams said. "I'm forever grateful that I served with such remarkable and brave Americans and their families."

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