Few Marines in Afghanistan wake for Obama's speech

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 1, 2009 

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — Only a handful of the thousands of troops in the U.S. Marines' main base here thought it worth the effort to get out of bed for President Barack Obama's speech on Afghanistan, which began at 5:30 a.m. local time.

In the workout gym — one of the few public places with TVs — only two Navy Seabee engineers were watching when the speech began, and they were sharply divided on the wisdom of the president's plan.

"I didn't really hear a good reason," said E3 Steven Lewis, 23, of Boise, Idaho. "I think it's all gone on too long. 9/11 happened a long time ago."

Lewis had been riding an exercise bike close to the dusty, 21-inch TV when the speech started and sat through half of it, including the announcement of the size of the buildup, before he got up to leave.

The only one who watched the entire speech was RP2 Michael Vanasselberg, 22, of Bentley, La., a chaplain's assistant.

"I think he gave a good speech, and I agree with most of the points he made," Vanasselberg said. "You'll never be able to stabilize the security here if you keep trying to do it with the minimal amount of force."

Next door in a weight room, Marine Sgt. Alvaradoj Imael of San Diego was doing abdominal exercises. He said he hadn't needed to watch the speech because the basics had been leaked in advance.

"I think it's way better to bring in more guys," he said. "Maybe we can get it done fast and get it over with and go home."

That was just a hope, though, he said. The reality, many Marines feel, is that it will take longer than the 18 months Obama talked about to make a significant change.

"Most of us, though, believe it will end up like Iraq," he said. "Pretty much everybody thinks we'll be here like, five years more."

(Price reports for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.)

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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