View Full Version : Return of general heading Iraq forces marks deployment drop

01-22-06, 12:57 PM
Return of general heading Iraq forces marks deployment drop
Jan 22, 2006 : 12:21 pm ET

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- The return to North Carolina of the 18th Airborne Corps commander marks the start of troops returning to North Carolina and the beginning of a possible new life in Iraq, says the former commander of U.S. forces.

Lt. Gen. John R. Vines led a contingent of 130 soldiers assigned to his headquarters as they marched from a passenger plane to a building where excited families waited for their loved ones.

About 5,400 soldiers from the post of 48,000 soldiers remain in Iraq and are due home in the coming weeks. In addition, thousands of Marines from Camp Lejeune are scheduled to start arriving home next month.

Vines has been commander of 150,000 troops from 27 countries in Iraq. Just before leaving Baghdad, Vines turned his command of Multi-National Corps-Iraq over to Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli.

"Baghdad is a pretty safe place compared to standing between friends, family and children and moms and dads," Vines said.

Vines echoed the sentiment of many weary soldiers.

"It's been a long number of days without a lot of sleep, and cumulatively you realize at the end that it takes a lot of energy away from you," he said.

Vines said the past year was "where the new Iraq was born."

"They held three national elections, a referendum," Vines said. "They ratified a constitution they had drafted. It was the most liberal constitution in the Islamic world. They held a national election just over a month ago where they determined the kind of government and representatives they will have for the coming four years."

Vines also aid Iraqi security forces now have more than 100 battalions, compared to one a year ago.

An awards ceremony for soldiers who served in Iraq is scheduled for Thursday at Fort Bragg.