BAGHDAD – Trust can be a challenge for the American public when considering the guidance and actions of key leadership. Quite often, decisions are made that people feel they have no say about the outcome, even when it directly affects their lives. In the 1930’s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt changed the peoples’ perception of their involvement, simply by sharing information casually via the radio. The evening radio show created by FDR during his presidency, the “Fireside Chat,” kept American families informed of U.S. government decisions and addressed public concern.
This started future leaders to begin communicating via radio. Service members here have the advantage of the same access to information on the progress of the mission in Iraq through the Armed Forces Network’s Freedom Radio bi-weekly radio chat. The show broadcasts to all major locations in Iraq and has featured the United States Forces – Iraq spokesmen from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. Sgt. 1st Class Donald Dees, broadcaster for AFN Freedom Radio, recently had an on-air interview with Maj. Gen. Jeffery Buchanan, spokesman for USF-I, Aug. 29.
After Buchanan’s recent trip to the U.S. capital, Dees and Buchanan honestly confronted what is going on with the mission in Iraq and highlighted the recent progress of the Iraq transition mission.
On Jan. 1, 2009, the U.S. and Iraq security agreement went into effect as the key document that sets the terms for the military relationship between the two countries. The agreement requires the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by Dec. 31, 2011.
However, discussions conducted Aug. 2 by political leaders from different factions of the Iraqi government still hint at further U.S. involvement past the end of the year, Buchanan commented.
“Those discussions have not yet matured to negotiations,” Buchanan said frankly. “Any speculation on what might be here beyond the end of the year, other than a very robust U.S. Embassy presence to help Iraq in a civil capacity, would be just that, a speculation.”
Buchanan made a proactive decision to engage media outlets and veteran’s service organizations in Washington to keep them informed of what may occur in Iraq over the next four or five months.
Veteran’s organizations play a key role in service members’ reintegration into the U.S. after deployment, and it is essential for them to prepare support, said Dees.
Another topic was Iraq’s progression in securing their maritime provinces. As of right now, the Iraqi navy has obtained five 35-meter swift boats and are on track to possibly receive 16 more for the purpose of maintaining security throughout Iraq’s territorial waters, said Buchanan.
“The Iraq navy and marine corps are responsible for the defense of Iraq’s two off-shore oil platforms and about 80 percent of Iraq’s territorial waters,” said Buchanan. “They are on board to achieve 100 percent security by the end of the year.”
The U.S. Navy Central Operation command is very active in international waters in the gulf and has a very active partnership with the Iraqi navy. That partnership will continue whether there is a significant U.S. presence in Iraq or not, said Buchanan.
“They will be operating in concert in international waters,” said Buchanan. “We look forward to maintaining a strong relationship with the Iraqi navy.”
The Iraq transition was a key theme in AFN’s chat with Buchanan and included comments on the Kirkush Military Training Base transitioned from U.S. to Iraqi control Aug. 21.
“When we first started operating out of Kirkush in the summer of 2003, it was a case of U.S. trainers and Iraqi soldiers,” said Buchanan. “Now, not only are they training themselves, they are training and certifying their own instructors.”
Similar to the “Fireside Chat,” Buchanan commended particular service members for outstanding service and valor as a traditional end of the radio show.
“I would like to recognize Staff Sgt. Andrea Sheving and Senior Airman David O’Connel, both assigned to the 321st Expeditionary Operations Squadron based out of Kirkuk, they helped transition the upper and mid-level sectors of Kirkuk airspace to the Iraqis Civil Aviation Authority,” said Buchanan proudly. “To develop a civilian airspace command and control authority in a comprehensive way is no small endeavor.”