EXCLUSIVE: 25th Infantry Division soldiers remember Iraqi... - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: 25th Infantry Division soldiers remember Iraqi counterparts

LTC Robert Jean LTC Robert Jean
Sgt. Kevin Woodruff Sgt. Kevin Woodruff
Sgt. Alissa Suarez Sgt. Alissa Suarez

By Teri Okita – bio | email

ON A C-17 (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the next month, soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division headquarters will have some much-deserved time off after spending more than a year in Iraq. Their Iraqi counterparts will have to pick up where the Americans left off, and the soldiers told us how they think the Iraqis will fare.

Over the last eight-and-a-half years, some of these soldiers have gotten to know the Iraqis and their country quite well.

"It just becomes a part of you," explains LTC Robert Jean. "I think, if I could move my family there, my wife would kill me, but I'd go back and keep helping them if I could but not with my family."

LTC Jean lived, worked, and trained with the Iraqi military and government. He says the country has changed dramatically and believes its economy, infrastructure, and security forces are all stronger, and officials there are more confident.

"Their government still has a long way to go, but I think they have a base and the people understand the process now and that they have a right to have a voice. It would be harder to take that away from them now," says Jean.

Other soldiers who've done multiple tours tell us the same.

"I definitely noticed that the security environment seemed a lot safer, at least for Iraqis in their day-to-day lives," says Sgt. Kevin Woodruff, who did two tours there.

Advising, training, and assisting Iraqi security forces had been of highest priority for the U.S. military in recent years. Over the course of the war, more than 110,000 Iraqi civilians died - so preparing security forces to stand alone was key. Many believe it's now their opportunity to really step up.

"I think we did as much as we could and as much as they wanted to be helped, we helped them for every step they wanted, and it's our time to go," Sgt. Alissa Suarez says.

President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have discussed ways to continue training and assisting - without posting American troops there long-term or building bases there. Those days are now over.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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