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From Office of the Governor         11/25/05   GCN

    (Undisclosed location, Iraq) * Governor Haley Barbour told members of the Mississippi-based 155th Brigade Combat Team Friday they have done a phenomenal job under the most difficult imaginable circumstances fighting the war on terror.

Barbour, on an official visit to the Middle East sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Defense and State, said he visited four forward operation bases in Iraq where nearly 1,500 members of the 155th BCT are deployed in strategic positions. The 155th includes Mississippi Army National Guardsmen and some active duty personnel from other states.

The governor said he greeted many of the troops and received first-hand reports from Mississippi Adjutant General Harold Cross and Gen. Leon Collins, who commands the 155th. “I received a very positive report from Gen. Collins, as well as commanders and other officers at the forward operation bases, and I can assure all Mississippians that they can be very proud of members of the 155th.”

He said he shared the unit’s happiness that its personnel will begin coming home next month and all are expected to return by January 15.

The 155th BCT drew one of the most dangerous missions in the war. Barbour said he learned in the fall of 2004 that the 155th BCT would be deployed to an area in Iraq known as the “Triangle of Death,” an area that is essentially the dividing line between Shiites to the south and Sunnis in the central and west-central portions of the country.

Two primary roles of the 155th BCT have been to root out insurgents and train Iraqi personnel to handle patrols and security functions in their own country. A measure of their success, the governor was told, is that insurgents have been driven westward and the almost daily shelling of one of the forward operation bases * nicknamed Dogwood --has been sharply curtailed. Also, most patrols are now handled by Iraqis with members of the 155th in training and advisory roles, although some members of the 155th are now working with other U.S. personnel in the westward reaches of Iraq.

“What I want Mississippians to know is that the 155th BCT was assigned one of the most violent areas in Iraq and has done a phenomenal job of running many of the insurgents out and training Iraqi security forces. Local governments have grown and are keeping the insurgents out,” Barbour said.

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