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General says Iraqis welcome U.S. troops

by Darlene J. Taylor

STAFF WRITER

FAIRMONT -- Gen. Robert Foglesong, vice chief of staff, U.S. Air Force, and a native of Mingo County, said the vast majority of Iraqi citizens are glad U.S. armed forces are there. He discussed the war in Iraq and Afghanistan at a roundtable luncheon Wednesday.

Foglesong, who will become commander of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe on Tuesday, was special guest of the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation.

The Air Force general said he just returned from a morale-boosting, reconnaissance mission in the two war-torn countries.

"I came away with a sense that 99 percent of the Iraqi people are happy with us being over there. But a small fraction, who lived off the oppression of others, will never be," he said.

Foglesong said the conditions "our sons and daughters are enduring over there are harsh and hazardous."

He was flown to his destinations by the West Virginia Air National Guard.

"When I stepped off the plane, it was like stepping into a hair dryer -- 120 degrees with wind at 20-25 knots," Foglesong said.

He described one of Saddam Hussein's many palaces.

"In a sign that showed Saddam's arrogance, the solid gold chandeliers were hand-etched with compliments to him. We now have 360 soldiers living in that palace," Foglesong said.

A moat surrounded the palace that looked onto a private hunting preserve of exotic animals that Hussein hunted, he said.

"It was Third-World living outside those palace doors," he said. "It is a land of incredible promise with a resilient people who lived -- many their entire lives -- under a dictatorship."

Foglesong said some people question the war and ask why do we fight.

"We fight for Larry Beck, 38, ... and the 3,008 others killed on Sept. 11. We became more united at that point than I've seen in my lifetime. It was our Pearl Harbor," said Foglesong, a recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and 15 other medals and decorations.

Foglesong is wrapping up his responsibilities of overseeing the Headquarters Air Staff and working with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to oversee the operational requirements of all military services.

"I have been to 106 countries in the last decade. We are the best. We train the best and we equip better than anyone in the world for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to win wars for us," said Foglesong, who has served at 18 locations in 30 years, from South Korea to Washington, D.C.

Staff writer Darlene J. Taylor can be reached at 626-1403 or by e-mail at dtaylor@exponent-telegram.com