An Army officer spoke to students about her experience in Iraq before Thanksgiving Break.
The Army ROTC department and Department of Student Affairs invited Lt. Col. Janet Kirkton to campus.
Kirkton, who spent a year in Iraq until last June, spoke about her duties as a Senior Strategic Planner.
“I often speak about my experiences, but this was the first time at a university,” she said.
Kirkton described the challenges, surprises and rewards of the time she spent in Iraq.
“I had to learn a great deal for this job,” she said. “Leadership and critical thinking don’t just come with the branch. I am paid to be a smart researcher and author and to think quickly on my feet. ”
Kirkton said her main goals to work toward in Iraq were to assist in the formation of a stable Iraqi government and ensure the troops are removed from Iraq in accordance with the Security Agreement.
“Our mission is about establishing a legitimate, credible government to govern the people,” she said. “The plan itself is nothing, but planning is everything.”
Kirkton said it is vital Iraq has a stable government because it is the core of the Middle East.
“Iraq is the stability for that region,” she said. “However, it is a hotbed for terrorists, and that is why we went there.”
Kirkton was also responsible for the drawdown plan to move forces out of Iraq in keeping with the Security Agreement, which states that U.S. forces should be removed from Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.
“My hope for the plan is that it be executed as envisioned, with Iraqi Security Forces and the Government of Iraq firmly in control and forces drawing down safely and on time,” she said.
Kirkton said the key to providing the Iraqi government with stability is to increase their dosage of autonomy.
“We were occupiers, and occupiers were seen as the enemy,” she said. “Slowly we have turned the tide. We want to go from leaders to partners to observers.”
For Kirkton, her time spent in Iraq was as rewarding as it was difficult.
“I worked directly for Gen. Petreaus and Gen. Odierno and contributed to the massive effort underway in Iraq,” she said. “The changes in Iraq are remarkable, and the support the American people are giving the Iraqi women and children makes me very proud. Being a part of that has helped me to become a better mother and overall human being.”
Students said they found Kirkton’s information to be surprising and fascinating.
“I thought she was really informative,” freshman business management major Ethan Zentz, said. “It was great to get the point of view of someone who was in Iraq instead of the media.”
Junior nursing major Anne Marie Dust said she was very impressed.
“I had no real idea what we were doing in Iraq,” she said. “But now I see how things are going, how we got where we are and where we plan to go from here.”
Kirkton said the progress in Iraq is tremendous, and the counterinsurgency being used has been effective.