FORT STEWART, Ga. (WTOC) - Major General Rick Lynch proclaims, proudly and confidently, Iraq is in better shape than when the Third Infantry arrived more than a year ago.
Lynch stood at the podium for the first time since he returned from Iraq and for the last time before he leaves Fort Stewart. He says he and Third Infantry spent as much time growing a country as they did fighting insurgents.
"We constantly tried to figure out how can we get people employed? How can we get markets open? How can we get local governments trained to do what they need to do? We made significant progress," he explained.
The General says insurgent numbers dwindle every day in the face of progress as everyday citizens join a neighborhood watch of sorts called the Sons of Iraq that flourished as people trusted the troops. General Lynch says he was most proud of the troops and most frustrated by national media who seemed disinterested in reporting slow but steady progress.
"The American people deserved to know the progress, not just the latest fatality or running total of fatalities," he contended.
However he said, he had a pipeline to the families of coastal georgia.
"WTOC let me go on TV live from Iraq once a month to talk to our families. As a result, they felt more like they knew what was going on in Iraq," he noted.
To help spread the message of progress, General Lynch said they'll make available to soldiers who want them DVD of pictures and videos on Iraq soldiers can take to their home towns to spread the message.
He also outlined a plan already in place that could send local brigades back to Iraq by the end of 2009. And as far as his promotion and departure.
"It's going to be a difficult day for me 14 July when I take this patch off my left sleeve," he said as he patted the Marne insignia. However, Lynch then gestured to his Marne combat patch. "But know this is true, this one will stay on my right."