Saturday, August 25, 2007


This time from the LAT. It's important that the sergeants are speaking out, as 6 recently did in the NYT.

GIs' morale dips as Iraq war drags on
With tours extended, multiple deployments and new tactics that put them in bare posts in greater danger, they feel leaders are out of touch with reality.
By Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 25, 2007
YOUSIFIYA, IRAQ -- In the dining hall of a U.S. Army post south of Baghdad, President Bush was on the wide-screen TV, giving a speech about the war in Iraq. The soldiers didn't look up from their chicken and mashed potatoes.

As military and political leaders prepare to deliver a progress report on the conflict to Congress next month, many soldiers are increasingly disdainful of the happy talk that they say commanders on the ground and White House officials are using in their discussions about the war.

And they're becoming vocal about their frustration over longer deployments and a taxing mission that keeps many living in dangerous and uncomfortably austere conditions. Some say two wars are being fought here: the one the enlisted men see, and the one that senior officers and politicians want the world to see.

"I don't see any progress. Just us getting killed," said Spc. Yvenson Tertulien, one of those in the dining hall in Yousifiya, 10 miles south of Baghdad, as Bush's speech aired last month. "I don't want to be here anymore."

"The only person I know who believed Iraq was improving was killed by a sniper in May,"
the blogger, identified only as Alex from Frisco, Texas, said in a separate e-mail.

"There are two different wars," said Staff Sgt. Donald Richard Harris, comparing his soldiers' views with those of commanders in distant bases. "It's a dead-end process, it seems like." Asked to rank morale in his unit, Harris gave it a 4 on a 10-point scale.

"It sounds selfish, but if we just had phones and Internet service," said Staff Sgt. Clark Merlin, his voice trailing off. ... "I think the extension has been 99% of the reason morale is low," said Merlin, rating it 4 or 5.

t is especially difficult for soldiers trained to fight a uniformed enemy but in Iraq face an array of unconventional forces. Most thought their job was finished after Saddam Hussein was ousted. Instead, they found themselves directing traffic in Baghdad's chaotic streets. Four years later, they still are policing and doing community work they did not anticipate.

"You couple that with getting blown up and shot at, and it definitely makes it harder to deliver service with a smile," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Littrell, whose plan to leave the Army in May was thwarted when his unit's tour was extended.

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