Sanchez on Iraq: LTG Ricardo S. Sanchez, Former CJTF Commander in Iraq, Shares His Thoughts about the War, and about What the Army Accomplished at Home and Abroad since March 2003

By Hasenauer, Heike | Soldiers Magazine, February 2005 | Go to article overview

Sanchez on Iraq: LTG Ricardo S. Sanchez, Former CJTF Commander in Iraq, Shares His Thoughts about the War, and about What the Army Accomplished at Home and Abroad since March 2003


Hasenauer, Heike, Soldiers Magazine


IT'S very hard for me to be on the outside looking in, after dedicating my entire being for 14 months to the combined joint task force and knowing I still have a division in Iraq, with Soldiers fighting and dying," said LTG Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former CJTF commander in Iraq and current commander of the Germany-based V Corps, whose 1st Infantry Division is in Iraq.

As the second anniversary of the liberation of Iraq approaches, Sanchez shared his thoughts about the war and what the Army has accomplished since March 2003.

Upon Arriving in Baghdad

"When we arrived in Baghdad, everything was gone. There was no police force, no government. There were no schools. We had to build across military, diplomatic, information and economic lines," Sanchez said. "We provided direct support to Ambassador Paul Bremmer, then the chief administrator in Iraq, through Central Command.

"Our Soldiers were put into a situation where they had to handle missions across all aspects of Iraqi society," Sanchez said. Their instincts, based on their training and leadership development, contributed to the U.S. Army "fielding a really flexible, applicable force that was not afraid to take risks or engage in all these different areas, to the point where they achieved remarkable successes."

The fact that Iraq was able to move forward in terms of its economy, its entire political infrastructure, with the establishment of city councils and national governments--due largely to Soldiers on the ground-is phenomenal, Sanchez said.

"Bremmer issued a policy directive that our force was to go out there and make [positive things] happen," Sanchez said. The coalition rebuilt the electrical and oil infrastructures at the same time it performed security missions.

"Then, we just wanted to help the people, giving them an idea of what freedom means and what democracy is all about--what it means to truly respect human rights, and what strength of diversity is," Sanchez said. "All of that was exemplified by our Soldiers on the ground and in their daily interactions with the people of Iraq.

"As they built the Iraqi security forces, the ethic, both in terms of the democratic ideals that we bring and the individual Army value systems that we embrace and live by every day, were being imparted to these people. It was something they never experienced before," Sanchez said.

"We have to be optimistic about the future of the country," he said. "There's absolutely no question that history will show very clearly the tremendous contributions of the American Soldier and the American military in standing this nation back up."

Attitudes Toward the Coalition

"It was unquestionable to me as I moved around the country, that the Iraqis clearly understood the critical contribution that the coalition and the American service member was making to the stability of their country,"

Sanchez said.

"Just by nature, and their instincts, the Iraqi people are opposed to outsiders being in their country," he added.

Myriad Missions

The mission of the force Sanchez commanded was to restore the country's crippled power plants and oil wells, conduct security patrols, distribute information leaflets, and operate Iraqi currency exchange convoys.

In the midst of all that, the coalition's first priority was still to conduct offensive operations, and neutralize and destabilize terrorist influences, he said.

The desires of the 36 nations that participated in the coalition had to be considered as well. Rules of engagement differed among various countries' armies, Sanchez said.

Dual intelligence networks had to be set up, and the contingents of soldiers from around the world had to be trained, equipped and housed.

Liaison officers had to be assigned, so unit commanders would get a real picture of what was happening on the ground and their subordinate leaders would be clear on the commanders' intent. …

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