General: Citizens Support Troops

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Raleigh News & Observer
November 30, 2006
Pg. B5

Iraq not Vietnam, Marine leader says
By Estes Thompson, Associated Press
CAMP LEJEUNE - Troops fighting in Iraq shouldn't fear the type of civilian disdain their counterparts in Vietnam encountered here at home because a more mature citizenry can now support the military while disagreeing with political policy, the nation's top Marine said Wednesday.
"They may not be behind the idea of a United States presence in Iraq, but they are behind you," Gen. James Conway told nearly 2,000 Marines at Camp Lejeune, the corps' largest East Coast base.
Conway told the Marines, many of whom are due to deploy to Iraq in early 2007, that during Vietnam troops were seen as part of the government. Americans today consider troops as individuals without a say in government policy.
"The country has matured a great deal," said Conway, who became commandant this month. "They may not support the policy, but they sure ... support the troops."
Many people in the nation are upset about the loss of life in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, but the average of two deaths per day is far below the 302 deaths a day of American forces in World War II, Conway said.
After his speech, Marines in the audience questioned Conway about topics ranging from newer rifles for snipers to the Corps' tattoo policies.
After the event, Cpl. Richard Wright, 21, of Magna, Utah, said he was looking forward next year to his second deployment to Iraq.
"There's good people there," Wright said. "It's not like the news. There's not all bad people there."
Conway also told the Marines that his staff is trying to devise ways to give them more time at home so they can see their families and get better training. He said one way to do that would be to increase the size of the Marine Corps.
The current pace of deployments -- seven months overseas and less than a year at home for many Marines -- is wearing down even the hardiest Marines. Conway said he prefers a 14-month home assignment.
He also said the focus on Iraq is teaching Marines good lessons in battling insurgents but is eroding other skills such as "fighting another nation's army."
"A counterinsurgency is a much more decentralized operation," Conway said. "If you go to Iraq, you won't even see a battalion maneuver."
Conway also said Marines haven't been able to get their usual jungle and mountain combat training because of the pace of operations in Iraq. The lack of such training could hinder the Corps' ability to fight elsewhere, he said.