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In Iraq, U.S. Sees Signs Of 'What Winning Looks Like'

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In Iraq, U.S. Sees Signs Of 'What Winning Looks Like'

In Iraq, U.S. Sees Signs Of 'What Winning Looks Like'

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

Unidentified Man #1: (Unintelligible)

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO COMMUNICATION)

KELLY MCEVERS: Unidentified Man #1: (Unintelligible) contact them (unintelligible)

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO COMMUNICATION)

MCEVERS: The night before, a roadside bomb targeted a U.S. convoy that drove past here. No one was hurt. This squad believes insurgents are watching their every move, so their mere presence here in armored vehicles beside the road should deter future attacks. Still, sitting and watching a highway can be tedious.

MCEVERS: Tonight, you're the state police.

KEVIN GRIGORIS: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GRIGORIS: A weigh station.

MCEVERS: That's Sergeant Kevin Grigoris. He says these days American soldiers are doing a little bit of everything: raiding weapons caches, dismantling homemade bombs, and, Grigoris's favorite: Forming on-call teams to catch high- profile insurgents.

GRIGORIS: You get called out and you know you're in a big rush. Your adrenaline is going. You know, you got to stay ready to go. We're getting outside the gate in under 15 minutes.

MCEVERS: The commander of U.S. forces here, General Ray Odierno, says America has no plans to abandon its commitment to Iraq.

RAY ODIERNO: Unidentified Man #3: (Unintelligible)

MCEVERS: Unidentified Man #4: Everybody dressed?

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)

MCEVERS: Originally, this site was just a hill. Soldiers spent nearly a month sleeping in their vehicles and going without showers to fortify the checkpoint and build living quarters, says First Sergeant Michael Schoenewald.

MICHAEL SCHOENEWALD: This is the Army's new experiment, where you have a few soldiers out in the middle of nowhere, having to support themselves.

MCEVERS: In other words, forgetting the big combat missions that originate from big fortified bases and coming out to help with everyday security needs like checkpoints. It's an experiment that frustrates Specialist Benjamin Reagan.

BENJAMIN REAGAN: I came all the way out here to Iraq. You know, I was supposed to see combat, and now I'm stuck on a checkpoint not seeing any combat at all.

MCEVERS: When you don't hear an explosion every hour and know that Americans have died, when there's some sense that Iraqi forces are taking control of their country's security, that means you're winning, says Major General Tony Cuculo who commands U.S. forces in northern Iraq.

TONY CUCULO: What winning looks like is when the sun rises and we get a phone call from the Iraqi security forces saying, by the way, last night we conducted an operation. We caught these three people. And they didn't ask us for help.

MCEVERS: Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Baghdad.

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