Soldiers choose to stay the course

  • 2008-06-04
  • By Sgt. Daniel T. West

Soldiers were faced with a difficult decision.

DELTA BASE, IRAQ - With only a week remaining in their six-month tour in Iraq, soldiers from Lithuanian Contingent 10, the Iron Wolf Brigade, faced a difficult choice.
Two options remained following the news that the Lithuanian government had voted to extend the unit's tour for two more months 's the soldiers could volunteer for the extension or continue their redeployment.
"Since [their things] were already packed and I knew how difficult it would be, I chose to ask for volunteers to stay," said Lt. Gen. Valdas Tutkus, Lithuanian Chief of Defense.

Twenty-nine of the 40 soldiers in the platoon chose to continue the mission.
"Without them, we would be stuck," said Capt. Caroline Pogge, of Company B, 411th Civil Affairs Battalion. 
"They are the primary personnel security detachment for civil affairs and Provincial Reconstruction Team Wasit.  Without them, we are immobile," she said.

Choosing to continue their deployment showed a lot about their character, according to Pogge.
"To a lot of people, six weeks [the extension was later changed to eight weeks] isn't much," said Pogge, a native of Danbury, Conn. "But over here, it's a long time."   
Word that the Lithuanians had chosen to stay was a welcome surprise, according to Col. Peter Baker, commander of the 214th Fires Brigade.
"We are so dependent on them for movement, we didn't know how we would move the teams that are so vital to the reconstruction effort," Baker said. The soldiers reportedly appreciated the fact that the choice was left to them.

"It is important to serve our country, but in some moments it is more important to take care of home and family," said 1st Lt. Gediminas Alisauskas, a platoon commander. 
"I'm glad to have the chance to choose. All of us had plans for when we got back - most changed them, some couldn't," he said.
Being so close to returning home made the choice difficult.

"I had one week left and it felt like I was already home," Cpl. Rimvydas Stasaitis said. "I had plans, but changed them when I decided to stay. It's my duty and responsibility. The mission is not finished when our time is finished. If we wanted to finish it, we had to stay."
For some, the decision to stay was made to support the team 's a reluctance to leave while comrades stayed. The platoon bonded over the time, and for some the decision was whether to leave one family for another.
"We came as one platoon and have friends here," said Capt. Karolis Morkunas, the platoon's senior national representative. "We want to stay with our friends."

Tutkus emphasized Lith-uania's continued commitment to supporting the U.S.
"We came in with the U.S. during the war and will stay in support until the end… It's important to be a credible member of NATO and the Coalition.  In order to demonstrate our credibility as a country, we have to share the risk," he said.