POSTED: Friday, March 13, 2009
American military forces should be able to live up to the terms of a security agreement that requires them to pull out of Iraqi cities to their bases by June 30, a 25th Infantry Division brigade commander said yesterday.
Col. Todd McCaffrey, commander of the division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, said he agrees with the Army's top leadership that President Barack Obama is on "the right track" with his troop withdrawal plan by August 2010.
"When we left, things were on track for a sustainable security," said McCaffrey, whose unit may have been the last to be subjected to 15-month combat tours.
At yesterday's welcoming ceremony, 4,500 soldiers of McCaffrey's Stryker brigade stood in formation while a cool Wahiawa rain fell. With several hundred family members, island political and community leaders looking on, McCaffrey un-cased the brigade's colors, and the unit was officially home.
In his speech, McCaffrey paid tribute to 10 brigade soldiers who were killed in combat, reading each of their names. An 11th brigade soldier was killed in a noncombat incident. He said these soldiers "made the ultimate sacrifice and join the long list of other American heroes who have during these seven years of war paved the road to freedom and democracy with their lives."
Their names will be inscribed in granite and placed on an 8-foot memorial that will be dedicated May 21 at Schofield Barracks.
The Schofield Barracks soldiers conducted more than 30,000 patrols, many of them combined with their Iraqi Security Force counterparts. They found more than 1,100 weapons caches, completed more than 150 school projects and 20 hospital projects, and provided more than 1,000 grants to Iraqi business owners, totaling more than $2 million.
The unit's 330 18-wheel combat vehicles will be sent to Fort Lewis, Wash., to be refitted and should be back at Schofield Barracks this summer.
"Warrior" brigade soldiers earned four Bronze Star medals with valor, along with 15 Army Commendation medals with "V" device and 35 Purple Hearts.
Capt. Logan Veath, who commands Bushmaster Company in the 1st Battalion, 14th Regiment, earned one of the four Bronze Star medals by saving the life of a soldier whose uniform was on fire during an intense firefight in Sadar City in April. Veath said that his actions should not detract from those of his fellow soldiers. "They are all exceptional."
Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of all Army forces in the Pacific, said, "The Warrior's brigade greatest accomplishment may in fact be that the Taji power plant once again is operational in generating electricity to the people of Iraq - another sign of progress amongst all of the combat action." The area, which previously had between two and four hours of power per day, now enjoys nearly continuous power, the Army said.