General Lloyd J. Austin, commanding general of United States Forces - Iraq, revisited his 3rd Infantry Division roots during a trip to Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Oct. 16.

During the visit, Gen. Austin presented the Purple Heart to Sgt. Justin Hughes and Pvt. Phillip Verner, both with the 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd ID, United States Division - Center, who were wounded when their vehicle was hit by an RKG-3 grenade, Sept. 2.

"There's some great lineage here," said Gen. Austin, as he spoke to a crowd of 4th AAB, 3rd ID Soldiers who attended the Purple Heart ceremony. "The 3rd Infantry Division is a storied division with a lot of great history."

General Austin's first military assignment was as a rifle platoon leader with Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd ID. More than 20 years later, he helped spearhead the Marne Division's invasion of Iraq in 2003 as the assistant division commander for maneuver with 3rd ID.

The former Dog Face Soldier said he is proud of the efforts Soldiers have made since the invasion to help create a more sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.
"About eight years ago, a bunch of 3rd ID Soldiers were down in Kuwait, getting ready to head north, and some of you guys were a part of that [invasion], and are still serving [today]-and that's amazing," Gen. Austin said.

General Austin also said it was a great honor to recognize heroes like Spc. Hughes and Pvt. Verner. "You're going to get a lot of awards and recognition for the rest of the time that you're in the Army," said Gen. Austin. "But no recognition will feel as good as it feels right now because you are being recognized for going above and beyond by your peers in a combat zone."

Specialist Hughes, a Havelock, N.C. native, and member of Company E, 703rd BSB, said he was honored to have the Purple Heart placed on his uniform by the top commander in Iraq.

"He actually took the time out of his busy schedule to do this; it's an honor," he said.
General Austin said the citizens of Iraq are also applauding the U.S. forces' efforts to help them achieve sucess.
"In their minds, you are still the best force that has walked the face of the Earth ... and they're right," he said. "I want to thank you for doing a great job. I want to encourage each and every one of you to continue to work hard."

"Once we leave, we want to look back behind us and see a country that's growing and thriving," Gen. Austin said. "We have a lot of teammates who have invested in this. I feel very confident, based upon the folks that are standing in your ranks that this [last] part of it is going to go well."