Day 322 - 155th BCT Coming Home
From The Clairon Ledger:
PASCAGOULA — Most members of the 155th Brigade Combat Team will be home by Christmas, says Gov. Haley Barbour, with others back no later than Jan. 15.
Currently, there are about 4,000 members of the 155th deployed to Iraq and 14 have been killed since they deployed in January. The unit is made up of about 3,500 Mississippi Guard soldiers and others from across the country.
Barbour visited the unit's outposts as part of a tour of the Middle East with three other governors during the Thanksgiving holidays.
"I went to forward bases where four units of the 155th are based," Barbour said during a meeting Monday with the editorial board of The Mississippi Press.
"I bet I saw 1,500 of the 3,500 (in the unit). They thanked me for coming, but there was no place where I would have rather been. What they told me that Friday was that most of their mission has been taken over by the Iraqis. Two of the four base bases are not going to reopen, one of them is going to reopen under the Iraqis, one is not going to reopen," he said.
Barbour said the unit members and commanders told him that they have accomplished their mission so successfully that what they were doing a few months ago is being done by the Iraqis.
Barbour said he believes there will be fewer American troops involved in Iraq because of what the units have accomplished and because the Iraqis are being trained more and more.
"Their (the troops') attitude was very positive, because they felt so good about their success," he said.
"They felt so good because they accomplished their mission. Some of them are still in harm's way. One of our bases is in a place that's still difficult. But the other three, the same report, over and over. And we saw Iraqis coming in to the base patrols coming into the base. It was really good, very good to see them.
"They made me feel a lot better that the success that's being had is going to mean a whole lot fewer Americans there.
"The length of the Iraq conflict has caused some members of both parties in Congress to call for a timetable to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from the country.
Barbour said a slow withdrawal would work better than setting a specific timetable.
"I think if the people in Congress went to Iraq and saw what I and the three other governors saw, that their attitude would be that we should withdraw troops from Iraq down to the level of need and they would see that that level is going down," he said. "There will be fewer soldiers in Iraq by this time next year.
"You're not going to learn from the American news media, but if they went down there and saw what the four of us saw, they would see that's the right process to withdraw ... That need is shrinking every week."
"Besides meeting with the 155th, Barbour said he also visited with other Mississippi units in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he saw a Gulf Coast Guard unit assisting with earthquake relief.In Kuwait, he said, he saw the 1108 AVCRAD helicopter maintenance unit.
"The same day, I saw their lead element of the 155th Brigade Combat Team. The lead element of departure is set up at a big air base in Kuwait. More than half of them will be home by Christmas."