RAMADI, Iraq --
RAMADI, Iraq (August 21, 2008) – Lieutenant Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the Multi National Corps-Iraq commander, visited the Marines, sailors and soldiers of 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, in Ramadi August 21.
Austin, along with Col. Lewis A. Craparotta, commanding officer, RCT-1, and Lt. Col. Brett A. Bourne, commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, toured the battalion’s area of operations and assessed the level of growth in the region.
“Things are going well over here,” Austin said while speaking to Marines at an entry control point in the city. “We have the (insurgents) on their heels and they’re in disarray. While we have not defeated them yet, we are making progress—we just have to keep the pressure on them.”
During his two-hour visit, Austin emphasized his appreciation for the service members’ dedication and hard work.
“I just wanted to say thank you for all that you have done,” Austin said. “You’re doing a lot of hard work out here and I am proud to be on your team.”
The region has been the site of significant gains over the last two years. The city, which was once considered to be the most violent in the world, is much safer and its citizens have begun rebuilding and recovering from years of heavy fighting.
Austin recognized the service members’ efforts in helping the city get to where it is now.
“What you’ve done here is remarkable,” Austin said. “You made a difference and you should feel good about that. You’ve earned the respect of the people in this area and what you’re doing here has really set the stage for the city to maintain its development, and for its citizens to continue to feeling safe.”
Austin also discussed service members’ multiple deployments. He said he understands their concerns and sacrifices, but as a warrior, they can not leave until the mission is complete.
“This is my third deployment in five years, and some of you are on your fourth or fifth deployment,” Austin said to the service members. “But that’s OK. We will hang with this thing until we get it right! As soon as you get home, and rest a little bit the Corps is going to tell you to get ready to do it again. But, that’s who you are, and that’s what you are.”
Austin, during each stop, opened the floor for any questions or concerns from the service members.
Sgt. Frank J. Scanna, a platoon sergeant with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, asked how the upcoming presidential election will affect military operations in Iraq.
“Whoever wins the election will assess the battle space and listen to what the people on the ground are saying,” Austin said in response to the question. “They will see the significant gains we’ve made in helping the Iraqi people. But for us (military members), we’re going to keep doing the right thing and keep moving forward the best way possible. Whoever wins, we will obey that person’s orders and execute to the standard.”
Before leaving the sites, Austin thanked the service member’s families for being strong in their loved ones’ absence.
“For the individuals who may be going home soon, take some time to think about all you’ve accomplished over here,” Austin said, “and thank your family on my behalf for all of the great things they’ve done and for their sacrifices.”