House Panel Hears Commanders Laud
By John D. Banusiewicz
WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2004 – Army and
Marine Corps field commanders gave high marks to their troops'
performance during a House Armed Services Committee hearing
Junior officers, noncommissioned officers and newly
enlisted soldiers and Marines drew praise not only for their
courage and professionalism in combat, but also for their
interactions with the Iraqi people.
Five officers testified:
- Army Col. Michael Linnington, who served as
a 101st Airborne Division brigade commander in Iraq.
- Marine Lt. Col. Bryan P. McCoy, who
commanded the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, in Iraq.
- Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey A. Springman, who
served in Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 39th Field Artillery.
- Marine Capt. Morgan Savage, who served as a
company commander for the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine
Regiment, in two Operation Iraqi Freedom deployments.
- Army Capt. Patrick Costello, who served as a
company commander in a 101st Airborne Division air defense
artillery battery in Iraq.
"It was not uncommon for my soldiers to be rebuilding
schools and medical clinics during the day and conducting
mounted and foot patrols at night, or fighting insurgents in
one part of town while assisting with elections in another,"
Linnington said. "In all of these operations, our soldiers
performed magnificently with courage, dedication,
selflessness, compassion and respect for the Iraqi people that
made me very proud to be their commander."
Linnington said the brigade's junior leaders made him
especially proud. "Our junior leaders displayed tremendous
maturity in their leadership and tackled responsibility that
is normally reserved for those much more senior in rank," he
said. "It wasn't uncommon in my zone for young lieutenants and
sergeants to be conducting traditional infantry tasks like
raids, securing key infrastructure, and conducting foot
patrols with newly trained Iraqi security forces."
The brigade's young leaders, he added, also conducted
nontraditional missions such as supervising harvests,
restoring key oil and water facilities, settling land
disputes, retraining city and border police and helping with
The colonel cited Costello's air defense artillery battery
as an example of how young leaders and soldiers adapted to
what he called "diverse and challenging" tasks.
"Once we transitioned to stability operations," he said,
"Pat became my Emergency Response Program coordinator,
responsible for all the humanitarian and rebuilding operations
in my portion of Iraq." Costello, he said, oversaw more than
700 projects valued at more than $7 million, all designed to
improve the average Iraqi citizen's quality of life.
"Pat's unit of about 120 soldiers quickly transitioned from
their air defense artillery tasks to convoy and fuel escort
missions," Linnington said, "traversing hundreds of miles
daily from the borders with Turkey to Baghdad and from Mosul
to the western border with Syria, all helping (to) get fuel –
primarily propane and benzene – to the families in the remote
regions of that country."
The soldiers' interaction with the Iraqi people isn't
limited to fighting insurgents, Linnington said. "Our soldiers
are serving with compassion and respect for the Iraqi people,"
he said, "and genuinely care about the cultural sensitivities
in this largely tribal environment.
"This relationship goes far beyond the things you might
expect, such as respecting local customs and traditions," he
continued. "It goes as far as coordinating delivery of donated
school supplies from American families sent in the mail to
needy Iraqi school children, or fixing playgrounds and soccer
fields on soldiers' off time, or donating food and money for
sick and poor Iraqi families.
"Acts of kindness both from and toward our soldiers (are)
rarely reported in our news media," he continued, "but they're
everyday facts of life in Iraq."
McCoy, now assigned to the National War College, commanded
his battalion through both of its deployments to Iraq. He said
the unit's young Marines were "amazing" in their ability to
transition from combat operations to a "much more ambiguous"
security and stability mission, noting that many of them "were
last year's high school seniors."
"They instinctively knew what to do," he said, "and
demonstrated great compassion on a people that had known only
terror and fear."
Local Iraqi police stations were "weak, demoralized and
easily intimidated institutions that did not hold the respect
of their adversaries, the people, even of themselves." He said
his Marines turned them into "confident, proactive departments
that were respected and not feared by the average Iraqi
Marines also made great progress with the citizens
themselves, McCoy said, especially with Iraqi children.
"Perhaps the biggest impact we made was on the children," he
said. "Marines and sailors love kids, and the relationship was
an easy one to forge. The children are the future of Iraq.
They no longer have to fear for their parents being murdered
or raped by their government."
McCoy had high praise for Marines serving in Iraq. "Your
young Marines have demonstrated incredible courage, endurance,
will and compassion on a daily basis, all to make a better
Iraq," he said. "And I believe we're being successful."
Springman, who now serves on the Army headquarters staff
and spent more than a year in Iraq, commented on soldiers'
dedication and versatility.
"Daily, I witnessed artillery lieutenants and sergeants
leading patrols to the same standard as infantry leaders, and
quickly switching back to their artillery duties without a
misstep," he said. "These same leaders performed duties as
civil affairs officers. Additionally, we have soldiers alive
because their immediate leaders ensured they were properly
trained and maintained uniform standards despite the extreme
Savage, now the academics officer at the Marine Corps'
Officer Candidate School, served two deployments in Iraq, and
echoed McCoy's high regard for the Iraqi police with whom he
worked. They progressively took over more of the security
responsibilities that coalition forces, and the Marines in
particular, had been charged with, he said.
"They progressively put themselves in harm's way more and
more to outdo our level of commitment," he added. "They took
the task serious, and they took us serious, because we were
committed to the task at hand, and our actions are what spoke
to the Iraqi people."
Costello said that as well as his soldiers performed in
both traditional and nontraditional missions, they didn't
represent an isolated case. "My soldiers are just one example
of the great work being done by our military on a day-to- day
basis in Iraq," he said. "The missions that we completed are a
testament to the flexibility and ingenuity of our soldiers,
and I'm proud top serve with all soldiers."