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U.S. Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning visits Soldiers in Iraq

 

Written by Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Hoskins
Headquarters, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)

Fort Campbell KY - 101st Airborne DivisionBaghdad, Iraq – The U.S. Army’s top civilian leader visited Soldiers deployed to Iraq as part of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Operation Inherent Resolve September 17th-18th, 2016.

Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning made stops in Baghdad, Erbil and other areas in northern Iraq during his tour, visiting with service members deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, a Coalition of regional and international nations, that have joined together to enable Iraqi security forces to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

While in Baghdad, Fanning met with Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the CJTF-OIR commander, Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, CJFLCC-OIR commander, and other senior leaders to receive a ground-level view of operations in Iraq.

U.S. Army Capt. Thomas Izzo, fires support officer, Task Force Strike, Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Operation Inherent Resolve, takes a selfie with Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning while a group of Strike Soldiers await their opportunity to snap a photo with Fanning at Camp Swift, Iraq, Sept. 18, 2016. This was the second day of Fanning’s tour through Iraq, where he visited Soldiers assigned to the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Operation Inherent Resolve to garner firsthand feedback from troops on the ground. (Sgt. 1st Class R.W. Lemmons)

U.S. Army Capt. Thomas Izzo, fires support officer, Task Force Strike, Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Operation Inherent Resolve, takes a selfie with Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning while a group of Strike Soldiers await their opportunity to snap a photo with Fanning at Camp Swift, Iraq, Sept. 18, 2016. (Sgt. 1st Class R.W. Lemmons)

However, one of Fanning’s priorities was to meet the Soldiers supporting operations throughout the country.

“I can’t make very informed decisions if I don’t get out to the field and interact with Soldiers and see what they’re dealing with and what problems they’re facing,” said Fanning. “So I can take information back to Washington as we’re building a plan, a strategy, and a budget.”

It’s not only active-duty Soldiers Fanning is meeting; it’s also Reserve and National Guard Soldiers who have joined together as one team – the Total Army concept in action.

“There’s no way just the active component could do everything that’s required of the Army. It’s critically important that we work together as a total force as well as we can,” he said.

That’s where the Army’s multi-component units, such as the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), come into play. The 101st deployed its headquarters to lead CJFLCC-OIR, and it brought with it Guardsmen as an integral part of the team.

Capt. Griffin Spencer, fire support officer, Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Operation Inherent Resolve, briefs Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning on the fires process in the combined joint operations command, Erbil, Iraq, Sept. 18, 2016. This was the second day of Fanning’s tour through Iraq, where he visited Soldiers assigned to CJFLCC-OIR to garner firsthand feedback from troops on the ground. (Sgt. 1st Class R.W. Lemmons)

Capt. Griffin Spencer, fire support officer, Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Operation Inherent Resolve, briefs Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning on the fires process in the combined joint operations command, Erbil, Iraq, Sept. 18, 2016. (Sgt. 1st Class R.W. Lemmons)

“That’s one of the great things about coming into the field, because this could be a very political issue in Washington just because of the many competing forces the Guard has to contend with,” said Fanning. “But when you go down range, you can’t tell whether someone is active, Guard or Reserve unless you ask. So it’s just a reminder of how integrated we already are and how well it’s working.”

With budget cuts and troop reductions constantly in the headlines, Fanning recognizes it’s affecting the very Soldiers he visited within Iraq.

“I didn’t need to come out here to know that we’re running the Army hard, and the Army’s tired, and we’re asking a lot of our Soldiers,” he said. “The worst thing we could do is to keep an Army that’s too large and not have the money to buy and maintain equipment, and keep it trained and ready for the types of fights like here in Iraq.”

However, the Army is spread out farther than the bounds of Iraq.

“The Army demands are global; the Army is in upwards of 150 countries right now today. It’s not just this critically important fight we have here in Iraq, in Syria, in Afghanistan; it is a global requirement for the Army,” said the secretary. “It’s a balance of everything the Army is being asked to do – all the requirements of the Army – with the budget. And it is a squeeze. I think everybody recognizes that.

“The [chief of staff of the Army] and I certainly talk about it all the time – that we are running the Army hard. It’s the most lethal force the world has ever known, but it’s stretched thin and being run hard. It’s a constant battle that we’re struggling to highlight the stress that’s being put on the force.”

Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning presents a coin for excellence to Cpl. Patrick Harris, a culinary specialist, Headquarters Support Company, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), at Forward Operating Base Union III, Iraq, Sept. 17, 2016. Union III was Fanning’s first stop in his tour of Iraq where he met with leadership and engaged with Soldiers assigned to the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Operation Inherent Resolve. (Sgt. 1st Class R.W. Lemmons IV)

Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning presents a coin for excellence to Cpl. Patrick Harris, a culinary specialist, Headquarters Support Company, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), at Forward Operating Base Union III, Iraq, Sept. 17, 2016. Union III was Fanning’s first stop in his tour of Iraq where he met with leadership and engaged with Soldiers assigned to the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Operation Inherent Resolve. (Sgt. 1st Class R.W. Lemmons IV)

Despite these challenges, Fanning is impressed with the work Soldiers are doing in Iraq and globally.

“My trip to Iraq has highlighted a number of things I’ve already known. We have an incredibly resilient and trained force; a very innovative, very dedicated – they are committed to the mission, they know why they’re here, they want to make a difference. What I see anytime I interact with Soldiers, wherever it is, that we have a very impressive force of Soldiers.”


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