BAGHDAD - Every day, Soldiers make the decision to stay in the Army, but the mass re-enlistment ceremony held at Camp Victory's Al Faw Palace Dec. 19 was not an everyday sort of event.
Amy Chief of Staff George W. Casey stood in front of this particular group of 267 Soldiers, who had come from all over the Multi-National Division - Center area of operations, as they raised their right hands and repeated back to him the oath of re-enlistment.
"Thank you all for what you're doing here, and for the difference you're making in Iraq," Casey said to the ACU-patterned sea of faces before him. "I think it's important, every once in a while, to take a step back from what we're doing day-to-day and think about the big picture and remind ourselves what's at stake out here in the war on terror.
"We are at war with a global extremist terrorist network that is out to destroy our way of life," he continued, "but what's happening here in Iraq, because of your efforts and the efforts of others like you is that Iraqis are turning against extremists. Make no mistake - what you're doing here ... is having a great impact."
Pfc. Heather Lee Haynes, a re-enlistee with 632nd Maintenance Company, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, said she was pleased that Casey had come to conduct the ceremony.
"It was very kind of him to come here," she said.
Although the Soldiers that gathered together for the ceremony shared one common bond - their desire to continue their military service - their reasons for doing so were diverse.
Haynes said she has only been in the Army for a year and a half, but had already decided to re-commit for six years.
"I'm working on my bachelor's degree in criminal justice," the Fort Myers, Fla., native said. "This way I can use my tuition assistance for that, and my husband can use my (Montgomery) G.I. Bill money for his school."
Staff Sgt. Dominic Clegg, with Company F, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Inf. Div., said he was re-enlisting because he wanted to continue to train Soldiers.
"I'm not ready to get out," Clegg, from San Diego, Calif., said. "I re-enlisted for Fort Jackson (S.C.) for eight years. I want to teach new Soldiers."
He added that it was an honor to be given the oath by Casey, since he was in Iraq when the chief of staff was the Multi-National Force - Iraq commander.
"This is my third deployment over here," he smiled.
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, MND-C commander, addressed his Soldiers.
"You don't have to look any further than the 267 men and women about to raise their right hand to understand that this is the best Army in the world," he said. "We're blessed and humbled just to be in your presence."
"When you add it all up ... you're committing to another 1,264 years of service to our nation," Lynch continued. "People ask me all the time, 'Lynch, how can you have so much confidence'' It's easy, because I'm around you all the time. And that's where we draw our confidence from, so we don't have to worry about our nation and our Army because you're there, and you're continuing to be committed.
"You're doing it to protect our freedom and our way of life."