Chinook Tragedy Won't Deter Troops' R&R Program
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2003 - The Nov. 2 downing of a U.S. military helicopter
that was flying troops en route to stateside leave won't affect a recently
expanded rest and recuperation leave program, according to U.S. Central Command.
"The (R&R) program remains active," declared CENTCOM spokesperson
Air Force Maj. Mike Escudie, who added, "Flights are leaving Kuwait
In fact, Escudie noted, the R&R program for service members supporting
operations in Iraq was expanded Nov. 2 to handle 470 troops a day
headed for two weeks' stateside leave from a previous daily limit
of 270 service members.
And the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and Atlanta airports were added
as stateside destination points for troops in the expanded program,
according to a CENTCOM news release, joining the original Baltimore-Washington
An insurgent using a hand-held surface-to-air missile, according
to defense officials, apparently had shot down the American Chinook
helicopter. The Nov. 2 attack occurred near the Iraqi village of
Amiryah, which is close to Fallujah, a recognized stronghold of
support for deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The Chinook, U.S. officials said, was en route to Baghdad when
it was shot down, killing 16 and injuring 20 soldiers.
U.S. defense officials have acknowledged that insurgents have
become bolder in recent attacks on U.S., coalition, and allied-Iraqi
targets in post-Saddam Iraq. And officials agreed that insurgents
in Iraq seem to be employing weaponry of increasing sophistication.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself said Nov. 2 on "ABC's
This Week With George Stephanopoulos" that there were "enormous
numbers" of shoulder-held surface-to-air missiles in Iraq.
"(There) have to be more than hundreds," Rumsfeld asserted, noting, "there
are weapons caches all over" Iraq.
Rumsfeld has often pointed out that the anti-terrorism war must
be taken to the enemy and that Iraq is on the front line of that
"We can win this war. We will win this war," Rumsfeld declared
on "This Week," noting President Bush "has every intention of staying
after terrorists and the countries that harbor terrorists until
we have won this war."