FORT RILEY — With sectarian violence again on the rise in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Paul Funk told battalions of soldiers Friday morning that the home of the Big Red One is ready if needed.
A deteriorating Iraqi government has asked for more and more U.S. military assistance over the past few months.
Although Obama said late Friday night there would be “no combat troops on the ground,” he did say other means of military action were still on the table.
Before that announcement, though, Funk, commanding general of Fort Riley and the 1st Infantry Division, seemed to be ready to answer the commander in chief’s call.
Funk, who was addressing nearly the entire division present for Fort Riley’s Victory Cup awards ceremony — which capped of a week full of athletic competitions between the division’s many battalions in honor of the post’s birthday – wished a departing battalion well and advised them to always be ready.
Then he reminded all the hundreds of other soldiers awaiting awards to also be ready.
“When the nation calls, this division will answer every time,” Funk said from a podium and make-shift stage outside on the Custer Hill Parade Field. “We exist for one reason, and one reason alone: to fight and win our nation’s wars.
“So, if you haven’t noticed what’s going on in Iraq lately… I don’t know about you guys, but if we gotta go back there, there’s some ass-whooping we’re going to hand out.”
The soldiers — from nearly every battalion on post — erupted into cheers.
“I have a lot of skin in the game there,” Funk followed.
Major cities in Iraq have fallen under sectarian control in recent weeks, with even Baghdad, the country’s capital, threatened by Sunni-backed militants.
As its been in the region since the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 A.D, Sunni and Shia (also known as Shiite) sects of the Islamic faith have been in disagreement over which family was to succeed their religion’s founder.
Sunnis supported the succession of Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s friend, while Shiite Muslims chose his son-in-law and cousin, Ali bin Abu Talib.
The current Iraqi Army and Iraqi President are Shiite-backed.
Obviously, the debate still rages on.
At what scale the U.S. will again be a part of that debate after pulling out in the region after more than a decade of participation in it remains to be seen.