FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne just returned from maintaining authority in Iraq, which includes the Fallujah area.
82nd Commander Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack said Wednesday that, before his troops left, they established a foundation of jobs, security and trust.
Swannack almost sounded like an edgy cowboy describing his experience building security forces in Western Iraq.
"We generated some pretty daggone capable security forces, in my opinion," he said.
Swannack's division, based at Fort Bragg, had authority in the areas around Fallujah for seven months.
"Do the Iraqis like us? I don't believe so," Swannack said. "Do they tolerate us? Yes, I strongly believe so."
Nevertheless, since the Marines took over last month, the violence has swelled. A feeble cease-fire has nearly eroded.
"Anytime you get someone new on the block, you're going to test them," Swannack said.
Swannack said the increase of insurgent violence is a reflection of that recent transition and nothing more.
"We were tested when we came in in September, August of last year," he said. "We fought back, and they discovered we were tough, but fair."
Swannack said his division helped to establish 2,000 Iraqi border police and 51 police stations. He added that the coalition effort was swift, but compassionate.
"Warriors -- that's what we have over there fighting our nation's war," he said. "They take care of a hostile threat, and the next minute, they're handing out candy to kids or water to a family."
Since June of 2002, the three infantry brigades at Ft. Bragg have played a rotating role in operations in Iraq. Now, all but about 110 personnel based here are back home.
But the job is far from complete. After governing control goes over to the Iraqi people June 30, coalition forces will maintain security for an undetermined amount of time.