BASRA, Iraq - Despite a full agenda, a senior general from United States Forces-Iraq, took time to recognize fellow National Guard Soldiers during his visit to Basra.

Maj. Gen. Nelson J. Cannon, USF-I's Deputy Commanding General of Detainee Operations and 32-year veteran of the Michigan National Guard, presented coins of excellence as tokens of his appreciation to Soldiers from the 1-147th Aviation Helicopter Battalion, a National Guard unit comprised of Soldiers from Michigan and Wisconsin. The battalion is deployed to Basra in support of the 1st Infantry Division and U.S. Division-South.

"It's hard to get around as you well know, to see everybody on a regular basis," said Cannon, "but I did want to make a point to get down here and let you know you have done a great job for us down here. You have done an outstanding job."

1st Sgt. Steward Wenino, from Port Huron, Mich., and the 1-147th AHB, said it boosted the morale of those recognized.

"For our maintenance guys, they don't get to see the higher ranking people,"
Wenino said. "They're the back of the mission nobody sees. It was very beneficial for our
Delta Company to be recognized by a major general, to see the support aspect and receive
some recognition."

Staff Sgt. Jay Anderson, a patrol and supply specialist with the 1-147th AHB, said he was surprised and enjoyed the special lunch scheduled in just for them.

"It definitely feels nice to see the general take a little time from his busy schedule," said Anderson, a native of Waukesha, Wisc. "It feels great you are being noticed, that someone is actually paying attention to the hard work everybody puts in."

With the mission still in mind, Cannon expressed the importance of the 1st Infantry Division's continuing support and the challenges the 1-147th AHB faces with the downsizing of troops and new mission of Operation New Dawn.

"It's not a matter of how much time we have left," Cannon said, "but it is each and every day of making every engagement count, (ensuring) every effort serves the purpose we are trying to achieve."

Cannon said with downsizing expected to continue, Soldiers such as the 1st Inf. Div. and 1-147th AHB, are the right troops to get the job done in Iraq.

"You are part of the right 50,000," Cannon said. "The right 'can do' attitude to go out and make things happen, get it done when everybody else thinks this is going to be too hard."

The general said he felt with all the time the U.S. spent in Iraq, preparing the new democratic government for success is the most critical, and those involved are sharing a common bond in making history.

"To have planted that seed (democracy) in this part of the world is huge and that's the destiny of the United States," Cannon said. "We want to see democracy in the world and democracies aren't easy to manage, but it's the right thing to do."

"And you are all a part of that, you all help make history, especially here as we
get to the end. This is where we have to close the deal, finish strong."

This is Cannon's third deployment since the beginning of the Global War on Terror. Previously, he served as the commander of the Joint Detention Operation Group at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Director General of the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team in Iraq. Before his current tour as USF-I's Deputy Commanding General for Detainee Operations, he was commander of the Michigan Army National Guard's 46th Military Police Command.

"I'm very thankful to have had the opportunity to be here and to serve with great people like yourselves," said Cannon. "We don't say it often enough, but thank you for stepping up and answering your nation's call, coming into harm's way, setting your personal, professional, and family lives aside and coming here, doing these great things."

"From the bottom of my heart, I just want to say thank you to each and everyone."