By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
May 31, 2007 – May has been a deadly month for U.S. troops in Iraq, but they are adapting to the situation, the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq said today. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said the increased casualty rate is a result of the change in strategy in the nation and different tactics by the enemy. U.S. servicemembers remain committed to the mission and are adapting to the new circumstances, he said in a news conference from Baghdad.
The higher casualty rate "has to do a lot with the fact that we are going into places we have not been before," Odierno said.
U.S. troops are in more places in Baghdad, the ring around Baghdad and in Diyala province. "What we're finding is, the insurgents and extremists use (improvised explosive devices) as their own little security and support zones," he explained. "They use large, buried IEDs in areas we have not been before. And some of them have been somewhat effective, which has raised our death toll. We are working very hard to counter this, and we'll continue to do that. I have confidence that we'll be able to do that over time."
The U.S. troops are veterans and understand what they are doing. "They're aggressive in how they do things," the general said. The deep-buried IEDs are a problem, and the troops are adjusting their tactics, techniques and procedures to deal with this specific threat, he added.
Troop morale has not been affected by the increase in casualties, the general said. The troops have a tough job and are proceeding to accomplish their missions. "These soldiers go out every single day for a year. That's a long time. And in this case, 15 months," he said. "That's a lot. That's a lot of pressure over time."
Odierno said that even during World War II, when troops spent a lot of time in contact with the enemy, leaders pulled the units out of the line for rest and relaxation. "Here, we don't do that. They are out there consistently every single day," he said. "So you have to be mentally and physically tough, and they are. And different things affect you."
He said leaders at all levels need to be aware of this pressure. "We've got to continually talk to these young men and women who are out there doing these very tough jobs," he said. For the most part, they understand why they're there, and they do see some progress, the general told reporters.
"We have the best noncommissioned officers and soldiers in the world, and they will adapt to this. And they will continue to do their job."
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