III Corps commander discusses drawdown in Iraq
January 25, 2011
- III Corps helped Iraq transition from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn.
- III Corps commander has witnessed increases in agricultural and economic development.
- Violence is still a reality, but one that is being addressed by Iraqi Security Forces who are advised and assisted by the U.S. Army.
FORT HOOD, Texas (Jan. 25, 2011) -- As the III Corps mission in Iraq winds down and the Soldiers prepare to return to Central Texas, Lt. Gen. Bob Cone, USF-I deputy commanding general for operations and III Corps commander, highlighted the positive impact the unit has had during its year-long deployment, and the challenges still facing Iraq as they prepare to depart.
Cone updated about a dozen members of the Central Texas media during a video teleconference Jan. 24, at the III Corps Headquarters building. Cone began the conference by thanking all the servicemembers from the great place he has worked with during the past year.
"I'm extremely proud of the hard work that all the Fort Hood units have done in the last year, but Third Corps in particular, in its accomplishment in helping build a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq," Cone said.
"Just watching these great young Americans go about their business is absolutely awe-inspiring," Cone said, praising the dedication and commitment of the servicemembers in Iraq.
Cone listed the many achievements III Corps Soldiers witnessed during their deployment as the unit helped Iraq transition from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn.
"Significant progress has been made in a number of different realms," Cone said. He listed the country-wide parliamentary elections in March 2010, the seating of an Iraqi government chosen by the people, and the increased economic stability in the country as proof that Iraq is thriving in a number of areas.
Cone said he has witnessed increased agricultural development in the past year as well as economic development that is encouraging. He noted that oil production has increased substantially since III Corps arrived in early 2010, which will benefit the Iraqi people.
"When Third Corps got here, I think they were averaging about 1.85 million barrels a day, and I think that number is somewhere around 2.3 million barrels a day, and of course with the increasing oil prices, that should be favorable for Iraq over time," he said.
Cone said that despite the many achievements in the country, there are still areas where improvement can be made. He added that violence is still a reality, but one that is continually being addressed by Iraqi Security Forces, who are being advised and assisted by members of the U.S. Army.
The general said recent violence in Iraq has unfortunately claimed a significant number of victims due to the large number of Shiite pilgrims marking the religious holiday of Arbaeen.
"The overall number of attacks has not surged in recent days, but the level of violence generated because of the lethality of those attacks is high, and I attribute that to the density of pilgrims in the population. I think the Iraqis are continuing to work this extremely hard," he said.
"Generally speaking, it is less violent here," Cone added. "This is still frustrating and anybody who is killed by violence is too many. And, it's a terrible and tragic loss of life, but again, the Iraqis still have work to do in developing their security forces and continuing to work this."
Cone said that he fully supported the Iraqi Security Forces and their missions and goals.
"The Iraqi Security Forces are a capable, proficient force," he said, "that are dedicated to the Iraqi people."
After discussing the challenges that still remain in Iraq, Cone spoke to the assembled media members about the goal of successfully transitioning III Corps Soldiers home to their families and reintegrating Soldiers and their loved ones.
"We have a very extensive program in terms of the transition back. Every Soldier takes a series of health assessments before they go back so they can be identified for what assistance that they will need," he said.
Cone added that a Soldier's chain of command, friends and family are the best resources for identifying any potential problems with reintegration.
Cone said he is hopeful if returning Soldiers have any problems re-adjusting upon their arrival at the great place, they will take advantage of the many resources available here.
"We have an unprecedented array of programs at Fort Hood that address behavioral health care needs," he said.
He added that he encourages any Fort Hood Soldier to seek help if they need it.
"There's no one size fits all approach to behavioral health care needs," Cone said. "I think we have the bases covered at Fort Hood. We need to just focus on making sure the right people get to the right kind of treatment."
Cone said he was looking forward to the challenge of taking the helm at the great place upon his return. He arrived at Fort Hood in September 2009, and almost immediately began to prepare III Corps for its deployment. He said he would focus on Soldiers, family and preparing the force for future deployments through continued training.
"Fort Hood is one of the largest deployment platforms in our Army, so its mission is very clear," Cone said. "It has to take care of its Soldiers and families and make sure that they're receiving the kind of care that they so richly deserve."
He added that he will continue to make it a priority to take care of Soldiers and their families.
"We have an army that's under significant stress," Cone explained. "We've got to continue to find innovative ways to reach out to our young people and our young families and deal with issues such as marital counseling, behavioral health, education programs, the needs of the young family today."
Cone said the III Corps Soldiers are tying up a few loose ends before they hand over the reins of the mission in early February.
"We're still running hard," Cone said. "We've got two weeks left here. We'll still have a lot to accomplish in that time, and do a great handover with the unit that comes in behind us."
The XVIII Airborne Corps from Fort Bragg, N.C., will be taking over from III Corps. Cone said much of the new leadership is already on the ground and ready to get started. He added that III Corps played a vital role in the drawdown of American troops in Iraq.
"At one point we had 515 bases here, and as of yesterday, I think the number was right at 70. And, so we are continuing to make progress in shrinking our footprint and moving things and getting it done," Cone said.
Cone added that although there is a lengthy process involved in closing posts, the process continues to move smoothly thanks to the dedication shown by servicemembers of all ranks.
"Soldiers can accomplish anything when the end state takes them home, so they'll get it done. There's no doubt about that," he added.
As Cone concluded the VTC, he stressed the joy the III Corps Soldiers felt as their return quickly approaches.
"We're looking forward to getting back to Fort Hood and seeing all of you back in the community here fairly soon," he said. "We truly appreciate the support that everyone shows our Soldiers and their families in the Central Texas area. There's no better place to be from."