By Pfc. Christopher M. GaylordMarch 19, 2008
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston paid a visit to Soldiers and leaders in Iraq recently in order to assess situations in theater as well as listen to concerns.
"I get to Iraq four or five times a year to talk with the Soldiers and really see what's happening on the ground," Preston said. "It really helps the Army leadership stay in contact with what's going on over here."
Preston visited 3rd Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division and all their units around Camps Liberty and Victory, met with brigades in Taji and visited Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Loyalty.
"The most important thing is questions from the Soldiers," Preston said. "I get a lot of questions about education, professional development and Soldier pay. I spend a lot of time thinking 'what can I do to help them''"
Preston clearly expressed his confidence in the forces on the ground, in current operations and in the progress that has been made thus far, primarily in Baghdad.
"The thing I'm most proud of is that by demonstrating what right looks like, we've been able to make a lot of progress with Iraqi forces," Preston said. "The Iraqi army is learning from U.S. Soldiers every day. They emulate us in everything they do."
He also noted that in contrast to previous visits, the Baghdad area has become much safer as Iraqi forces and locals are beginning to stand on their own since Saddam's regime.
"As Iraqi forces become more and more competent, they take over more responsibilities," Preston said. "The neighborhoods are safer and you have people out there, so the neighborhoods are getting cleaned up."
With more people getting out in the neighborhoods, you'll see more locals getting work again, Preston said.
"There is more and more activity downtown and there are more and more shops opening up," Preston said. "It's amazing to see the goodness happening in Baghdad."
Preston left with an immense amount of confidence in the current situation and that things will continue to get better.
"It's absolutely amazing what our leadership has accomplished," Preston said. "The direction the Corps is headed in is incredible."