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President Barack Obama announced Friday he would withdraw all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, but for members of Ohio University’s Army ROTC program ending more than eight years of conflict isn’t so cut-and-dry.
OU ROTC members said cadet training will not change as a result of the war’s end, and one veteran who spent a year in Iraq said he doesn’t completely agree with Obama’s decision to withdraw troops.
“I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year,” Obama said. “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over. … The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops.”
There are almost 40,000 U.S. troops in Iraq right now.
U.S. military philosophy changed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said John Hansen, scholarship and enrollment officer for Army ROTC.
For years, he said, the U.S. military had an anti-Soviet feel. After Sept. 11, the U.S. realized enemies could take many forms, and cadet training began to shift.
“Before, the philosophy was that there’s an enemy in uniform, tanks versus tanks, soldiers versus soldiers, plane versus plane,” Hansen said. “Now, enemies are more unorthodox. They’re not wearing uniforms. They’re people in villages, hospitals. There needs to be a different thought process.”
There are slight differences in current cadet training that reflect the War in Iraq, such as financial credits for cadets who learn Arabic or Farsi, Hansen said.
However, he added, the basic training is the same and won’t change.
“(The end of the Iraq War) doesn’t have any impact (on ROTC training),” he said. “We’ve been commissioning lieutenants for 70 years now, and we’ll keep doing it.”
Kyle Scurlock, a senior and member of OU’s Army ROTC, spent a year in Iraq as a legal clerk. He said he disagrees with the decision to completely withdraw troops from Iraq.
“We’ve never fully left anyplace we’ve gone to,” he said. “We still have people in Panama, Vietnam. I don’t entirely agree or think it’s necessary that we pull everyone out. We can learn from them just like they can learn from us.”
There are many programs in Iraq that Scurlock said he doesn’t believe are emphasized enough. One is a Big Brothers Big Sisters-type program that sets up mentoring relationships between American soldiers and Iraqi children.
“We’re trying to change what most Iraqi citizens think of us; whatever the stereotype may be, we’re trying to get rid of it,” Scurlock said. “That program makes a huge impact on their next generation. … That needs to be the focus in the media — the changes we’ve made, not the people who have been killed.”
Since the Iraq War officially began in March 2003, more than 4,400 American troops have been killed and more than 32,000 have been wounded.
Although reports vary for the total number of Iraqi deaths during that time, the Associated Press estimates it exceeds 100,000.
“We’ve been fighting in Iraq for years, and we’ve lost a lot of soldiers,” Hansen said. “Like any war, it’s good to have it behind us.”
—The Associated Press contributed to this article.