Bush encourages soldiers at Fort Irwin

first_imgHe warned that the troops and their families will suffer unless Congress provides funding to continue the war without timetables for withdrawal. Both the House and Senate passed funding measures that require a pull-back. The president has pledged to veto any bill that includes timetables. He said the Army chief of staff told him that without renewed funding this month, “we will be forced to take increasingly Draconian measures,” including cutbacks in training for National Guard and reserves. “The folks at Fort Irwin know firsthand how important training is,” he said. The National Training Center is one of the nation’s premier posts for teaching soldiers how to fight in the desert. FORT IRWIN – President Bush said thank you Wednesday to the military and their families for their sacrifices during a time when the “American people are weary of this war.” The president spoke to several hundred soldiers and their family members during a lunch at the U.S. Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, 30 miles north of Barstow. He acknowledged the growing public and political pressure against the war, and the frustration of the American people. “They wonder whether or not we can succeed. They’re horrified by the suicide bombings they see,” he said. Historically, it’s focused on tank warfare, but now includes realistic lessons for the urban warfare and counterinsurgency going on in Iraq. A replica of an Iraqi village has been created on the post, incorporating Arab-speaking Iraqi-Americans to help soldiers prepare for what they will encounter. Before lunch, Bush stood in a dusty, rocky field as soldiers explained how they detect and disarm homemade bombs, called Improvised Explosive Devices. Bush operated a remote-control robot, playfully steering the device straight into a row of news photographers. The work being done by those who go through the training, those who volunteered while the nation is at war, “will have a lasting impact on the world in which we live,” he said. He cited a story about two children placed in a car so insurgents could get access to a crowded area. “Then they got out of the car and blew up the car with the children inside,” he said. “It only hardens my resolve to help free Iraq from a society in which people can do that to children … The people who do that are not people – you know, it’s not a civil war – it is pure evil.” U.S. Reps. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands and Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, said the public they represent still agrees with the president. “How would you feel if the president came out and said, `Oh man, it’s not looking good,”‘ McKeon said. Most important to the soldiers and their families were the president’s words of gratitude and encouragement. “I understand how difficult this war is on America’s military families. I understand the rotations are difficult for the moms and husbands, and sons and daughters. I understand that when a loved one is deployed, it creates anxiety. I also understand our military families are very supportive of those who wear the uniform. “And so, on behalf of a grateful nation, I say thanks to the families who are here, and all across the United States of America,” he said. That was just what the troops and their families wanted to hear, several said afterwards. “It was really awesome to have him come and thank us for our service,” said Cambria Blain, wife of the deputy commander of the post. Julie Hurd’s husband has been home for about six months after seven months in Afghanistan, where he worked in a medical unit. “It’s no fun having a husband deployed,” said the mother of four. “The mission is important. It’s important for the American people to realize that those of us who make the sacrifice support the president.” After the speech, the president spent about 45 minutes lingering for photos with soldiers and meeting with families of some of those who have been killed. Specialist Donna Laury, 36, of Kansas, served one tour in Iraq as a mental health provider. “It was like surreal,” the Kansas native said. “It was amazing. It was real impressive to us; we got to go meet him.” Sgt. David Moreno, 31, originally from Mexico, said the average soldiers are so focused on their work, they don’t worry too much about the political debates or the declining support for the war. “We have to remember why we do what we do,” the Iraq veteran said. “He told us the purpose of what we’re doing.” The Associated Press contributed to this report. [email protected] (909) 386-3889 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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