Moseley: U.S. military made Iraq announcement possible
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 23, 2011 1:50 AM
Seymour Johnson Air Force Base officials -- representing both the 4th Fighter Wing and 916th Air Refueling Wing -- are not yet ready to disclose whether the 40-plus locally based airmen currently deployed to Iraq are among those coming home from war by the end of the year.
But former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley said one thing is certain: Friday's announcement is a victory for the men and women he says have made a "decisive" impact on operations in the Middle East for 20-plus years.
"Seymour Johnson's role in this didn't begin on Sept. 11, 2001. It dates back to Desert Shield and Desert Storm," he said. "That's 21 years ago. Just reflect on that for a minute. You could have a young lady or young man who joined the United States Air Force, spent a full 20 years in and retired, and had a number of these deployments to the Arabian Peninsula. I think that is something that (needs to be) highlighted in a really, really big way.
"There have been thousands and thousands of airmen and airmen's families involved in this from the beginning through this morning. And make no mistake, that contribution has been decisive in these campaigns."
From the F-15E Strike Eagle aviators who dropped ordnance and provided close-air-support to troops fighting on the ground to the Security Forces teams and Explosive Ordnance Disposal flights that neutralized countless threats for those in harm's way, Goldsboro-based airmen have made quite an impact in Iraq, Moseley added.
And that impact, he said, made President Barack Obama's decision to end the war that much easier.
"I think these airmen's skills and their contributions and professionalism over the past 21 years have made this decision by President Obama something he can live with," Moseley said. "They, along with their Army, Marine and Navy brothers and sisters, have gotten the situation in Iraq to a place where an American president can make a judgment on this, whether you agree with that or not.
"If the president believes that the time is right to make that call, it's the American military that has gotten us to a place where he can make that decision."
The announcement does, however, beg several questions about future American presence in the region, the general added.
"I believe there is a value in having U.S. forces in that theater because it's an uncertain neighborhood, and the primary uncertainty out there right now is really Iran," he said. "The ability for U.S. forces to be present is a stabilizing factor in the region. Now, does that mean we have to be in Iraq? No. Not necessarily. Does that mean having U.S. forces in Iraq is the answer to the regional stability? I'd say no. But I would say that the notion of U.S. forces in the theater is a reality that is bigger than the question of how many people we leave in Iraq.
"So I don't know whether I would question the president's decision on Iraq ... but I do believe U.S. forces should be in the theater ... because of the nature of that neighborhood and the instability Iran causes. ... We need a presence in the Arabian Gulf. Our presence makes a lot of things possible."
Seymour Johnson officials have said they do not comment on "future troop movements," as doing so could jeopardize operational security.
And 916th Commander Col. Randall Ogden was quick to point out that his airmen, despite Obama's announcement, are still focused on the mission at hand.
"The 916th Air Refueling Wing has two Reservists supporting operations in Iraq, one from our operations group and one from our Logistics Readiness Squadron," he said. "Our folks were certainly excited about the president's announcement, but we realize we still have a job to do and we're keeping our focus on our mission."
Moseley also acknowledged that there is more work to be done -- that one presidential decree doesn't end deployments to -- and operations in -- Afghanistan and beyond.
But even so, he hopes the news will prompt Goldsboro and Wayne County residents to again show their gratitude to those who defend the freedoms they enjoy as Americans.
"The first thing I would tell (Seymour Johnson airmen) is, 'God bless you and your families for taking the oath to defend the country while we've been at war.' (Nearly all) of them have joined up since Desert Shield and Desert Storm, so they raised their right hand and took an oath to defend the country knowing exactly what they were getting into," Moseley said. "So you just have to understand how emotional that is for a guy like me and how important those young airmen are.
"The Air Force has been present since the beginning and has delivered the decisive blows in these campaigns against the regimes. Their families are the ones who have provided the support to allow them to go do that over and over and over again. So in this 21 years of solid, straight deployments and combat, those people have contributed so much and their family members have contributed so much. They really deserve a lot of credit."