Commando Brigade takes lead in southern Baghdad operations
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.
BAGHDAD – The first month of a deployment is always one of upheaval – for both the unit going home and the one arriving to replace them.
Militaries since time immemorial have used flags and banners to show their presence, and so 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division’s battalion and brigade colors being raised declare in no uncertain terms that the brigade is here to provide assistance to the Iraqi security forces and keep peace in their area of operations in southern Baghdad.
Lt. Col. Michael Infanti, a Chicago native, and commander of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, uncased the battalion colors in a brief ceremony on Sunday morning Sept. 17, and said that while the formalities were short, the meaning was great, and that 4-31 was now in charge of the north Mahmudiyah area of operations.
“You own it, you defend it, and you … establish an Iraqi government,” he told the formation of Soldiers.
Later that morning, the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, based on an Iraqi Army compound in south Mahmudiyah where they work in close conjunction with the 4th Battalion, 6th Iraqi Army Regiment, also uncased their colors, officially taking the reins from the 101st Airborne Division.
“(It’s) fun to have a ceremony with the Iraqi Army,” said Pvt. James Buron, a medic with Headquarters Battery and native to Phippsberg, Maine. “It’s good to get things underway. Hopefully no one will need to come after us; (the Iraqis) will be self-sufficient.”
The sentiment was echoed by Staff Sgt. James Smotherman, a squad leader from the battery from Las Cruces, N.M.
“I think it’s fantastic that we are uncasing here today as we assist them and enhance their ability to lead themselves and defend their country.”
“I’m excited,” said Spec. James Butler, a fire direction control specialist from Headquarters Battery, 2-15. He is from Galveston, Texas.
Colonel Michael Kershaw, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) commander, spoke briefly at the ceremony.
“We know from what our brothers in the Screaming Eagle (101 Air Assault) Brigade tell us that the Desert Lion brigade is the best in the Iraqi Army,” he said, and expressed hope for continued efforts in the sector to bring peace to Mahmudiyah.
Kershaw is from Huffman, Texas.
Col. Ali welcomed the newly arrived Soldiers to the area.
“I’m wishing you the best with your efforts and operations,” he said. “We hope you continue the efforts of the 101st.”
Baghdad has improved a lot during the 101st’s deployment, Ali said.
“I am very sure of the new unit because you have a great history, and I am sure you can improve this AO. …You are brothers in arms and in blood.”
Sgt. Robert Simonovich, a squad leader with A Battery, 2-15, commented on the uncasing ceremony.
“It was an important event,” he said. “It’s good that they can see we’re here working with them. It’s exciting to be working with the IA and see them taking the lead.”
Simonovich is from Cleveland, Ohio.
Two units under the 2nd BCT uncased their colors for the first time ever in combat; the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, and the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
Col. Jeffrey Harrison, commander of the 2nd BSTB, commented on the fact that the unit was writing the beginnings of its history with this deployment. He is from Snellville, Ga.
“We’re replacing an excellent unit,” he said. “We’ll go from what they’ve done and build on it.”
“This ceremony is significant in the fact that it’s the first uncasing of our colors on foreign soil,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Rees, signal platoon sergeant. “It’s the first time the unit has been together in a combat zone.”
And while growing pains are expected, Rees, a native of Muncie, Ind., has high hopes for the unit.
“We’ve got some challenges ahead,” he said. “We definitely will meet the challenges. We have nothing but a lot of professionals.”
The battalion contains companies of engineers, military intelligence, signal, and military police.
“We’ve learned a lot,” said Sgt. 1st Class Steve Plimpton, 2nd BSTB platoon sergeant. “We have a tough mission but we’re ready to accept it and be successful.”
Plimpton is from Springfield, Va.
The 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, also unfurled its flag for the first time in combat.
“We’re ready, prepared, and had a great transition with the 1st Battalion, 75th Cavalry Regiment, a great unit,” said Lt. Col. Mark Suich the 1-89 commander. “We plan on moving what they had started in the right direction, and establish security and control in the sector by gaining the confidence of people.”
Suich is from Greensville, Penn.
2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment uncased its colors for the third time on Iraqi soil, and many Soldiers of the unit are now on their third tour here.
“First Battalion, 502nd Airborne did a great job keeping the insurgents at bay,” said Capt. Dan McConnell, personnel officer in charge for 2-14. “We’re going to pick up where they left off, building the confidence of the locals so they can be self-sufficient and not need American presence anymore.”
McConnell is from Fairfax, Va.
Maj. Anthony Haycock, a native of Delavan, Ill., who serves as the battalion executive officer for the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, echoed the ideals.
“We had a very smooth transition,” he said. “The (2nd BCT, 101st Airborne) was very helpful and we look forward to building on their foundation and supporting the brigade with all our logistical assets.”
Task Force Vigilant, an ad-hoc group created to provide security around the Victory Base Camp, unveiled a sign in honor of the transition, and Maj. Brett Kessler, commander, expressed faith in the troops despite their difficult calling. He is from Flagstaff, Ariz.
The task force also will provide security for three Iraqi towns in the immediate vicinity of the camp.
“We’re patrolling in our sector of responsibility outside the wire,” said 2nd Lt. Curtis Lowry, a native of Martinsburg, W.Va., who serves as a battle captain with the task force.
The brigade officially took over operations as of the 20th of September, with high hopes for operations in south Baghdad.
210 BSB uncasing.
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq – Col. Brian Rogers (left), commander of the 2nd Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and native of Missoula, Mont., helps Command Sgt. Maj. Spencer Gray, the 2nd BSB command sergeant major and native of Thomaston, GA., uncase the battalion colors at a transfer of authority ceremony here.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie, 2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.)