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Hartselle Enquirer

Military squabble in Iraq strikes home in Hartselle

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
A Hartselle wife of a soldier serving a second tour in Iraq has waged a war of her own to restore the esprit de corps of American fighting men and women there and hurry up the process of getting them back home.
Patty Marcum was thrown a bone too big to chew on June 23 when she received an eight-page email from her husband, SSG Lawrence Marcum, an U.S. Army advisor to the Iraqi Army at Camp Taji near Baghdad. The email consisted in part of a story written by Greg Jaffe and printed in the June18 edition of The Wall Street Journal. It gave a detailed account of a squabble that developed between two Army officers at Camp Taji, one heading up mostly American soldiers and the other in charge of U.S. Army advisors to the Iraqi Army.
Jaffe described Camp Taji as follows: "On one side, about 10,000 U.S. Army soldiers live in air-conditioned trailers. There's a movie theater, a swimming pool, a Taco Bell, and a post-exchange the size of a Wal-Mart, stocked with everything from deodorant to DVD players. On the other side are a similar number of Iraqi soldiers whose success will determine when U.S. troops can go home. The Iraqi troops live in fetid barracks built by the British in the 1920s, ration the fuel they use to run their lights and sometimes eat spoiled food that makes them sick.
"The only Americans who pass regularly between the two worlds are about 130 U.S. Army advisors, who live, train and work with the Iraqis.
"For many of these advisors, the past six months have been a disorienting experience, putting them at odds with their fellow U.S. soldiers and eroding their confidence in the U.S. Government's ability to build an Iraqi force that can stabilize this increasingly violent country.
"Until he was relieved of his command in May, Lt. Col. Charles Payne oversaw about 50 of the Army advisors.
"They (U.S. troops on the American side of the camp) treat the Iraqis with utter scorn and contempt," he was quoted as saying. "The Iraqis may not be sophisticated, but they aren't stupid. They see it."
Col. James Pasquarette, who commands most of the soldiers on the U.S. side of the camp, called Payne's claims "totally ridiculous." He also was quoted as saying that Payne and his advisors have "gone native."
"I got really mad and upset when I read that part of the story where Col. Pasquarette said my husband and his fellow advisors have gone native," Marcum said. "I was so mad I sat down immediately and wrote a letter to The Wall Street Journal expressing my hurt and concern. My husband told me in his email that he was upset, too. He had no answer for why someone like Col. Pasquarette, who has never seen where he lives, asked him how he is doing or offered him any advice, would insult him in the paper."
Marcum said she and her husband, who is an ammunition specialist, have been married for 12 years and moved to Hartselle in September 2004 after he was transferred from Fort Hood, Texas to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. He pulled his first tour of duty in Iraq in 2003 and was stationed in Saudi Arabia in the early 1990s.
"My husband is a good Christian man who misses being with his family," she said. "We have a daughter, Kristin, 13, who attends Hartselle Junior High School and he has a son Patrick, 19, who attends Calhoun Community College, and a daughter Emily, 17, who lives with her mother in Indiana.
"He loves being a soldier and he takes his military career seriously. He volunteered for this mission because he believed in it. In his emails he tells me he has developed a good relationship with the Iraqi soldiers over the past six months and sees them as making progress in their training.
"Nevertheless, I worry about his emotional and physical wellbeing constantly. It can't be good for his morale to know that the work he and his comrades is doing is not getting the support it deserves from some of the other military personnel serving in Iraq. The negative statements attributed to Col. Pasquarette would be disheartening to any patriotic American."
One thing the Marcums have going in their favor is their Christian faith.
"We're very spiritual and we pray a lot," she stated. "That's what keeps us going during hard times like these."
Marcum concluded her letter to The Wall Street Journal with the following comment: "As the Fourth of July approaches, I would implore all Americans to continue to pray for our troops. We are able to celebrate this holiday only because of all the selfless acts and sacrifices made by our fine American military."

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