By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 25, 2007 - Positive permanent changes in the Iraqi people are beginning to show, said Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright during his visit to the Central Command area of operations Nov. 21 to 24. Cartwright traveled to Afghanistan, Iraq and Djibouti to visit deployed troops and receive updates on operations in the region. He said Iraq has seen the most notable change in operations.
"You listen to the commanders and they're really talking about what's changing. What they see is opportunity, with caution that at any time, it could change and go bad. But they really see that if it does, it will be short-lived, that the change in the environment out there is starting to take hold in a permanent way.
"That's probably the biggest thing that I saw from the commanders, was an assessment that yes, they'll have setbacks in the future, but it is moving in the right direction."
The general said the biggest change in Iraq is attitude. "Moving around the towns and the different areas that we had the chance to go visit, you just see a change in attitude," he said. "You can see it in the streets. They're cleaner. People are taking stock in themselves and their businesses. They're taking the opportunity to clean up, get themselves on a business footing for those small businesses, which you see popping up all over the place."
The vice chairman said another big change is the looks on Iraqi faces. "You see smiles," he said. "You don't see people looking away from you when you move down the street. All of those things are signs that they're taking a different attitude toward their future."
He also said the U.S. and coalition forces showed a lot of energy, something that helps motivate him. "I tend to thrive off the energy of the people," the general said. "They seem to be positive about their mission, about what they're doing and why they're doing it. It's really easy to thrive off that energy."
While Cartwright received updates on operations, he also brought USO celebrities with him to entertain the troops. His group consisted of actor Wilmer Valderrama, model Mayra Veronica and comedian Russell Peters.
"The most important thing about this troop visit was to bring just a bit of America to these troops," Cartwright said. He added that when he looked out in the audience, he saw not only soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, but also a lot of coalition forces watching the entertainment.
"They may not have known what our Thanksgiving is about, but they loved the entertainment and they loved the opportunity just to escape for a while," the vice chairman said. "That was really a positive activity."
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff public affairs office.)