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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

U.S. Army Press Conference

Aired December 14, 2003 - 15:11   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's listen in to Lieutenant General Thomas Metz who's head of the 3rd Corp which oversees the 4th Infantry Division. Obviously a happy day there in Texas. Let's listen in.
LT. GEN. THOMAS METZ, U.S. ARMY: There is also another group that we don't often think about that we are also very proud of, and that's the families and our local friends, here in central Texas. Because our families have been so supportive in our local community, so supportive, those soldiers could better focus on their mission and that obviously paid off earlier today and last night.

The other point I'd make to you is that the operations in Iraq are not complete. We are training right now in a very robust simulation exercise to prepare the 3rd corps to do a relief in place of the 5th Corps. We will become the C-O-R-E of Coalition Joint Task Force Seven in Baghdad. Although we've made a great step forward, capturing the ace of spades, No. 1, there's still lots of work to be done for the Iraqi people and we're training hard right here at Fort Hood today, to get that done. And, with that let me answer any of your questions.

QUESTION: General, what was it like to get this news in the morning?

METZ: Well, first of all I guess I'll tell you a humorous story on myself. I was in about 5:30 doing some work related to the exercise. My aide to the camp came in and said sir down in the joint operation center we're working, the capture of Saddam Hussein, and I said "Fine, thank you very much." and I went back to work. He came back in and said sir, there's going to be a news conference about the capture. And I asked my aide, "Is this a game play or is this real?" thinking his answer was going to be game play, and it was real. I went running down to the joint operations floor where we've got the entire operation center duplicated that we'll have in Baghdad, everyone of course, rises for the 3rd Corps commander's arrival. They turned down CNN and I said. "Wait a minute; I'm down here to see actually what y'all are watching. Turn that volume back up."

And, we all enjoyed watching General Sanchez and Ambassador Bremer's announcement, and it was -- we certainly stepped out of our role playing in this training and got to enjoy that announcement that was made this morning at 6:00 local time, 7:00 Eastern.

QUESTION: General, how did it feel when the president noted the precision (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

METZ: Well, I've been, once I left that news conference, I've been in a training environment ever since and so I've met all of the other opportunities to enjoy that. So, I missed that. I can only imagine if he did talk about the precision -- I personally know, having served in the 4th I.D., having trained in the 3rd Corps for over eight of the last 11 years, I can -- I easily can witness and to the precision at which we are capable of doing operations.

QUESTION: Will the capture today change the mission for your men when they report to Baghdad? Is it going to make their life safer?

METZ: I think the change today will be small initially. If we were there right now, I'm sure to the CJTF7's are not doing much different today than they did yesterday. I do believe over the long- term that there may be some changes, but I think that those staff officers doing all of the many different things they're doing, they need to be doing them today and tomorrow just as professionally, because we still have a tough mission ahead of us.

QUESTION: General, the 4th Infantry Division's been hit particularly hard since this -- since combat was declared, over 41 casualties, 34 from Fort Hood, here. How much of an impact will arresting Saddam have on perhaps, the curtailment of the roadside bombings? Have you effectively cut off the head of the serpent for those guerrilla attacks?

METZ: I don't think we know the answer to that, yet. I think over the coming days with the interrogation, we may learn his role in actually managing that insurgent fight, but I think we need to all be prepared for a continued fight. They -- there are still those that have lost from the past, and we'll try to regain what they've lost at the expense of the Iraqi people, and we need to continue to work towards the security and stability for the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: General, what can you tell us about the 1st Brigade Combat Team (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

METZ: Well, the 1st Brigade Combat Team in the mid '90s was the -- what we called the Task Force 21. It was the first to experiment with digital capabilities. It trained very hard. We stabilized those people in those days. It became a very, very well-trained brigade. Since that time, we digitized the 2nd Brigade, continued that level of training for division capstone exercise in the late '90s, and so they have had the opportunity over quite awhile to be a very highly trained combat brigade, and it showed and paid off today and last night.

QUESTION: General, can you talk about (UNINTELLIGIBLE) how does that translate to the training here in terms of keeping their guard up (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of each search?

METZ: Well, you bring up a great point about how does it translate. We're in a collaborative environment constantly, at all levels. Many of these staff officers training collaboratively work with their counterpart that they're going to replace, and so the opportunity to have done that thousands of times for one of them to pay off will certainly be a motivation to maintain the patience and the discipline that pays off so much. QUESTION: General, can you talk a little bit about what it's like for these soldiers who are on the ground day in, day out doing the hard work to be a part of something as news worthy as this?

METZ: I can only imagine that, not being there myself, but certainly day in and day out, being in harm's way, away from families, under conditions that are certainly different than the daily life here at the wonderful central Texas post, has got to be hard and got to weigh on soldiers, and for it to pay off like it did today has got to be a tremendous reward.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sideline to the invasion (UNINTELLIGIBLE), how does this figure into that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

METZ: Well, I agree with you, that many of us saw them as sidelined, although they served a tremendous strategic purpose with the potential of going through Turkey into Iraq. It obviously it takes time because of the time distance to then move them to Kuwait, but they had to fight into the Ba'athist stronghold. They've been fighting a tough battle there, day in and day out, and I think this is just a reward of their patience, of their discipline, of their training. And clearly, of -- I go back to my -- one of my themes, the tremendous support of their families and the central Texas community that's come together here, at Fort Hood.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

METZ: I don't think it alters it at all, I mean we still have a very tough mission to help the Iraqi people create a stable, secure environment so that they -- so that governance can move forward, the economy can move forward and we can continue to help the Iraqi people enjoy the freedom that the loss of Hussein has given them.

There was one other...

QUESTION: General when the news broke were soldier...

METZ: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

QUESTION: Tell me about the mood of the base, I mean, you told you were standing around here watching the TVs. In general, this whole base must be (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

METZ, Well again, I saw the 6:00 Central time news conference, and then went back to training myself. I know that the staff that's close to me that I've trained with have been certainly, pepping their step and in an up tempo, and I can only imagine across the post, which I haven't seen, but I can only imagine that tempo's up pretty good.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

METZ: Excuse me, sir. Let me...

QUESTION: Was the two four aviation in anyway involved?

METZ: I don't know that. I really don't know much about the tactical piece of the operation. I look forward to learning from General Odierno all of the details, as I'm sure we all would like to.

Anybody over here? Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: General did you ever have any doubt in your mind that your men and women that would be able to nab the ace of spades?

METZ: Oh, sure there's doubt. You did know though, that the 4th I.D. was in the tough region, in a region that Saddam could have worked a little more safely than other regions. So, there was always that little hope that, and hope not being a course of action, but there was always that thought that maybe he's there and maybe the 4th I.D. will get him and that came through, today.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

METZ: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

METZ: Christmas bonus. Oh, they've gotten their Christmas bonus in the sense that they've got a tremendous victory, and a boost to their morale. We will continue to support the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) country I've got a feeling when they come home there will be plenty of cheers and pride for them.

QUESTION: Sir, I was just trying to clarify, the soldiers that are out on the post here, doing their training, news -- that news has filtered out through all of them as well.

METZ: Oh, I'm sure it has. You can't keep something like this in. Yes, ma'am?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

METZ: What many people don't realize is, we do a tremend -- I think you do realize we do training here at Fort Hood, but one of the real strengths that our armed forces has is we continue to train in theater, and so when soldiers of the 4th I.D. were not on operations and not doing very needed rest, I suspect that they were doing training in order to be -- their skills to be continued very sharp to pull off an operation as quickly and as successfully as they pulled it off.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

METZ: I don't put that past soldiers at all. Soldiers will do some things like that, hold a cigar for that moment, and that's part of the traditions that they need to enjoy.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

METZ: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. M-E-T-Z.

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