2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
BAGHDAD — Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., continued to find weapons caches and detain terror suspects during search operations for three missing Soldiers May 22.
The 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT discovered a series of caches which contained five 57mm rocket rounds, two six-volt batteries, two spools of copper wire, two 58mm rocket rounds, a 120mm rocket round, and two complete DSHKA heavy machine guns.
Batteries, artillery rounds and wire are some of the most basic materials used in the construction of improvised explosive devices.
The battalion’s scout platoon discovered two AK-47s with five magazines, two ammunition vests, a hand grenade, four grenade fuses, four blasting caps, a stick of plastic explosive, an IED detonator, 100 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, a Kawasaki motorcycle, and over 150 homemade CDs labeled in Arabic.
The caches were seized and the explosives destroyed by controlled detonation.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
BAGHDAD — The ongoing search for three Soldiers who disappeared in a May 12 attack near Yusufiyah, Iraq, continues to turn up caches of weapons and new suspects in the case.
Soldiers of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment conducted house-to-house searches southeast of Yusufiyah today, detaining 17 suspects and seizing a cache.
The Soldiers found an AK-47, a 9mm pistol, five magazines, a gas mask, two bandoliers, three ammunition vests, ten magazines and five other weapons, three of which were hidden in tennis-racket cases.
In another home the Soldiers found a modified cell phone, an AK-47, and another 9mm pistol, and next door, an AK-47 with an ammunition bandolier and five magazines, and in a nearby house, another bandolier, gas mask, and a bayonet.
The detainees were taken to U.S. facilities for further questioning.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 7:43 PM
By Lt. Col. John Valledor, Commander 2d Bn., 14th Inf. Reg’t
The quick reaction force—QRF—wearing night vision goggles, quickly waded through a waist deep canal, keen on snatching their illusive prey. Overhead, a team of two AH-64 Apache helicopters circled like flies, ‘sparkling’ their infrared laser pointers on two suspected insurgents, fleeing and desperately trying to distance themselves from the fast-approaching U.S. hunters.
The pilots had their forward-looking infrared sights’ heat polarity setting on “black hot,” revealing two dark colored human silhouettes against a broad white or cold farmland background. Invisible to the naked eye was a pair of thin, laser-straight light beams dancing across the landscape, emanating from the unseen helicopters aloft. Eventually they converged on a dense patch of four-foot-tall elephant grass bordering an irrigation canal, illuminating the insurgents final hide site.
The reaction force, guided by the pilot’s beacons and radio instructions, pounced on the patch. The team’s lead sergeant, propelled by adrenalin, roughly tackled the pair of cowering insurgents. One was a Moroccan foreign fighter wearing a chest ammunition rack and carrying an AK-47 assault rifle with a Russian hand grenade in the pocket of his Adidas running suit. The other, a tribesman, was described by local intelligence sources as belonging to Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Quickly, the reaction force reassembled on a nearby freshly-plowed potato field where minutes earlier, the Blackhawk helicopters had dropped them off. Again, the formation of helicopters descended from the darkness to withdraw the force and their newly acquired detainees for a short flight back to their base within the Baghdad International Airport complex.
Hours earlier, a U.S. Army platoon accompanied by a squad of Iraqi jundis, or soldiers, conducted a combined, nighttime air assault into the village of Ar-Radwaniyah. The village is a sleepy, out-of-the-way collection of irrigated croplands on the Mesopotamian plain, suspected of being a waypoint along an insurgent ratline connecting Al-Fallujah, Abu Ghraib and southwest Baghdad. As soon as the force hit the ground, the supporting aviation battalion battle captain detected movement in what was previously a still, motionless scene, typical of all Iraqi villages obeying nation-wide, nighttime curfew restrictions.
In the planning prior to the execution of the air assault, the task force had created several contingency plans, including that of the targets’ withdrawing from objectives as a reaction to the air assault. Although the assault force was primarily focused on clearing a sprawling cluster of over 20 Iraqi homes, they had rehearsed a plan to kill or capture fleeing ‘squirters’—insurgents who managed to escape by squeezing through U.S. lines.
Critical to accomplishing this task is good air-to-ground integration between attack aviation assets and the ground maneuver force. In the event that the assault force could not chase down and capture-fleeing insurgents, the task force designated an additional ground maneuver force, the QRF, with dedicated aviation lift assets to get them to any point on the ground deemed necessary. For this air assault operation, those assets would come from the same helicopter platoon used to infiltrate and later extract the ground assault force. The Blackhawk helicopters supporting this air assault would simply return to the mission’s primary pick-up zone and shut down, monitoring the task force’s command radios for continuous situational awareness. Likewise, staging the QRF’s Soldiers alongside the idle aircraft facilitated rapid loading and assault launching if needed.
The QRF commander, in this case a highly respected master sergeant, participated in all of the ground force commander’s air mission planning and rehearsals, so that he was acutely aware of the anticipated threats, terrain limitations, the ground maneuver scheme and most importantly, all likely contingencies. Further, the QRF commander placed himself inside the task force tactical operations center during the execution of the air assault. This allowed him to monitor live reports from the ground maneuver commander and the supporting aviation battle captain as they called-in code words signaling completion of tasks on a checklist. He was also able to observe live unmanned aircraft system feeds to better visualize the effects of terrain on both the U.S. force and their opponents.
As planned, the reaction force commander began to track and plot on a digital imagery map the initial spot reports from the air battle captain of suspected insurgent ‘squirters.’ He was able to monitor and track the assault force’s attempts to close with and capture the fleeing duo.
From the onset, the assault force touched down two kilometers away from the initial insurgent sighting. They followed the radio instructions as well as the attack aviation’s laser beacons, but with the dense undergrowth and water-filled farm plots, closing in on these insurgents was taking longer than hoped and jeopardized the completion of tasks in the original scheme of maneuver.
The enemy also had first-hand knowledge of the dense irrigation canal networks in Ar-Radwaniyah and were able to outrun the assault force Soldiers trying to envelop them at night, through complex terrain, wearing full body armor.
Although the attack aviation aircraft could clearly see the suspected insurgents using their infrared optics, they could not positively identify if they were carrying weapons, which would increase the options for how to apply the rules of engagement.
Although their actions by fleeing the site of the air assault landing marked it as suspicious activity, it alone was not enough to warrant the application of deadly force. At a minimum, it was imperative that the task force attempt to capture the suspicious twosome for intelligence of military value.
Frustrated by the fleeing insurgents’ ability to outrun the ground assault force, and by the fact that the air battle captain did not have visual justification to interdict the fleeing duo with lethal fires, the task force commander decided to launch the QRF.
The task force commander contacted the aviation battle captain managing airborne assets over the objective and tasked him to identify a safe and suitable helicopter-landing zone for the QRF in close proximity of the pinpointed insurgents. Once selected, the task force staff passed the map coordinates to both the pilots and QRF commanders so they could give the information to all involved.
Once launched, the QRF was able to capture the wanted insurgents, safely disarm them, and return them to the task force detention facility for tactical questioning within a span of 40 minutes. Upon questioning, it was found that the Moroccan foreign fighter was high on an unknown substance. He freely divulged detailed information on existing insurgent cell networks in the area—information that would be used in the never-ending cycle of human intelligence driven counterinsurgency operations.
The operation described might sound like a mission executed by a secret, covert, special-operations team. But surprisingly, it was entirely conceived, planned and successfully executed by conventional Army forces. The ground assault force consisted of Soldiers from Task Force 2-14’s heavy weapons company and the QRF from the reconnaissance platoon. With prudent planning and careful use of limited aviation assets, any conventional force in Iraq can achieve time-sensitive targeting effects previously within the domain of special operations forces.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 11:22 AM
Friday, May 25, 2007
Aviators, Logistics Soldiers Team Up in Search for Missing Soldiers
May 24, 2007
BY Spc. Nathan Hoskins
BAGHDAD (Army News Service, May 24, 2007) - With Soldiers spread throughout southern Baghdad searching around the clock for their comrades who have been missing since a May 12 ambush, it comes as no surprise that they need a constant stream of supplies to keep them going.
Although the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team "Commandos" sometimes truck supplies out to their brothers and sisters in arms, they rely mainly on the aerial assets of the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Air Cavalry Brigade "Warriors" to get the job done, said Staff Sgt. Darren Larson, a 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, supply noncommissioned officer.
"I know everybody downrange really appreciates everything 1st ACB is doing," he said, adding that the 1st ACB is "probably, by far, one of the biggest assets we have."
From sling-loading supplies to carrying them internally, the warrior air crews make sure their comrades have everything they need to continue their search for the missing Soldiers, said Capt. Pat Patrino, a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot and commander of Company B, 3rd "Spearhead" Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment.
"We're doing raids on targets, insertions, extractions, re-supplies, emergency re-supplies, troop movement, ... pretty much anything they ask for that we can do, we'll do, to include sling-loads," he said.
The commando Soldiers behind getting the supplies ready for 1st ACB to transport are from Company A, 210th Brigade Support Battalion. They understand that working quickly and effectively with their aerial partners is critical to keeping the mission going, said Capt. Anita Trepanier, commander of Company A, 210th Base Support Battalion.
"Our mission, right now, is to support the troops that are on the ground trying to find our fellow comrades with logistics support," she said.
Along with ammunition, medical supplies, food and water, the warriors are also transporting boats that aid the troops having to search in and around the canals, said 1st Sgt. Todd Harger, senior noncommissioned officer in Company A.
"We've pushed boats, so they can cross rivers and search the canals," he said. "Those canals, they don't look deep, but they're very deep - in some cases, 10 to 12 feet deep."
As supplies are flown out to the troops on the ground, the troops on the ground are transported quickly to search areas or capture insurgents during hasty air assaults, Capt. Patrino said.
"It's very hasty planning. They give us some products and we go execute it as best we can. Things change on the fly," he said. "A normal air assault would be anywhere between 48 and 96 hours to plan; these are anywhere between the one- to six-hours range in terms of from planning to execution."
These missions all are done on top of the Soldiers' normal work load, Capt. Patrino added.
Capt. Trepanier said she hopes the missions continue until the Soldiers are brought back.
"It says it in the Warrior Ethos, we will never leave a fallen comrade, and we are not going to leave our fellow Commandos," she said.
"There are three missing soldiers out there that we're trying to find," Capt. Patrino said, "and we're trying to do anything we can to help."
(Spc. Nathan Hoskins writes for the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade Public Affairs Office.)
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 11:58 AM
Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops fanned out across the fields of southern Iraq to find the two missing soldiers after the body of a third was pulled from the Euphrates River May 23. AP photographer Maya Alleruzzo, the only journalist embedded with the missing soldiers' platoon, has been documenting their search. The link is
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 11:06 AM
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
SHAKRIYAH, Iraq — For the first time ever, Iraqi army soldiers’ boots have touched ground in a place that had once been referred to as the “Triangle of Death,” a place where terrorists dominated the area.
Soldiers of the 3rd Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division raised the Iraqi flag Tuesday as a symbol of their presence in Shakriyah, Iraq, during a small ceremony at Patrol Base Gator Swamp in Shakriyah.
“The company’s arrival at PBGS marks the beginning of a much anticipated transition of authority over a once well known terrorist safe haven,” said Capt. Brendan Hobbs, commander of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment “Golden Dragons,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) of Fort Drum, N.Y. “Their partnership will contribute significantly to this area.”
For several months Hobbs’ Soldiers have been living at PBGS where they conduct routine operations to rid the area of terrorists. And now they have been partnered with Iraqi soldiers in hopes of creating an even safer place for the Iraqi local nationals.
“We eagerly welcome the men of Company 3 as we continue to eliminate terrorist cells that have once thrived in Shakriyah,” said 1st Lt. Matt Knox, C Co. executive officer. “Their presence will establish a peace of mind among the area residents that will ultimately result in increased cooperation in bringing terrorist activities to an end.”
While the Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers are partnered, they will not only be living together, but training as one.
“The Golden Dragons will be able to teach the Iraqi soldiers marksmanship skills, how to find caches and they will go on dismounted patrols together,” said Lt. Col. John Valledor, the 2-14 commander. “The Soldiers will keep doing all the things they have been doing, but with the IA – as one.”
Having the IA and U.S. Soldiers together at company level allows them to learn from each other in a smaller setting.
“Each of the 2-14 companies is partnered with an IA company,” Valledor said. “It gives them – at company level – to train together and it is amazing … Eventually you start seeing the jundis start to imitate the U.S. Soldiers. They dress like them – anything from wearing knee pads to goggles,” he added. “They instantly click.”
A Soldier from 2-14 Inf. echoed what Valledor said.
“I am excited to work side-by-side with the IA soldiers and assist them in any way possible,” said Cpl. Joe Carmosino, a Soldier with 2-14. “One day the security of Iraq will be able to rest safely in their hands.”
Carmosino is one of the Golden Dragons who will be working with the 60 new jundis at PBGS.
“These are brand new IA soldiers,” Valledor mentioned. “We want them to gain a sense of duty and what it is like to be duty bound for the country of Iraq.”
The IA company commander shared his feelings about being partnered with the Golden Dragons.
“We are excited to work as brothers with the Soldiers of 2-14,” said Capt. Thair, the 3rd Co. commander. “It is my hopes that we can bring security to the area and bring our terrorist enemies to justice.”
In an area where no IA soldier dared to enter, May 8 marked a new beginning – a beginning with safety and hope… a beginning of a new found Iraq.
“When the people of Iraq can visibly see an Iraqi force presence in the Sharkriyah village and see the Iraqi flag flying over a combined compound it means something,” Valledor said. “That is power.”
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 8:53 AM
By Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — Elements of the Iraqi army celebrated the assumption of authority in the Yusufiyah area southwest of Mahmudiyah in a ceremony Tuesday.
The 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army division has made tremendous improvements in personnel, training and equipment readiness over the last eight months, said Maj. William Warner, a native of Union City, Tenn., and the Iraqi Security Forces coordinator for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y. “Their assumption of responsibility and the designation that they are ‘in the lead’ in the Yusufiyah area are indicative of the exceptional hard work by the officers and soldiers of the 4/4/6 IA.”
The ceremony included speeches from 4/4/6 IA commander Brig. Gen. Ali and other officers of the Iraqi Ground Forces Command, as well as Col. Mike Kershaw, commander of the 2nd BCT, whose 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment “Polar Bears” have been living and working with the 4/4/6 soldiers for the last nine months, training them.
The Iraqi soldiers conducted a pass-in-review, parading before the leadership.
Ali was awarded an Army Commendation Medal with a “V” device for valor for outstanding leadership and work with the 4/4/6. Brig. Gen. Jim Huggins, deputy commanding general (maneuver) for the 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Ga., presented the award in front of the gathered Iraqi news media and attending dignitaries.
The Iraqi soldiers also conducted two mock skirmishes, taking down “terrorists” first on foot, then from Humvees. The wounded “terrorists” were treated and put into a Red Crescent ambulance while the others were detained and put into Humvees.
Lt. Ali Al-Meahi, visiting from the 1st Bde., 6th IA Div., is in an area where the Iraqi army is also leading operations.
“It’s very important for us to be in the lead,” Al-Meahi said. “There is a lot of communication between the soldiers and the people, and because of the trust the people have with the soldiers, we get a lot of co-operation.”
Sgt. Jarad Asalahe, who serves on Brig. Gen. Ali’s personal security detachment, agreed.
“We have been slowly taking the lead and building relations with the local people and the Coalition Forces. We did a lot of important work here. We try our best to do our job well, and we’re going to keep working hard against the terrorists.”
Over the coming year, Asalahe said, they hope to get Yusufiyah firmly under control.
“We hope we can improve the security situation and work to make the town safer than before, so the people can live in safety,” he said.
Pvt. Hassan Nahas Ma’iuf Al-Hichiemi said that the official transition didn’t matter much to him, but the implications did.
“We want to do our job to protect the people and make it safe here,” he said. “We’d like to see everyone have security, and for terrorist acts to be at zero … I think that’s a very reasonable goal. We can take responsibility now,” Al-Hichiemi said.
The 4/4/6 works largely out of Yusufiyah with the 4-31 Soldiers based on Forward Operating Base Yusufiyah, led by Lt. Col. Michael Infanti, a native of Chicago.
“This means we’re making progress,” Infanti said of the ceremony. “Our Soldiers can see the hard work, the Soldiers that were killed and wounded, made a difference. We’ve made a change and turned over our area to a capable force that’s able to go in and bring the fight to the enemy.”
The process has not been short or easy.
“We live with (the Iraqi soldiers), they’re included on every mission and task. We treat them as equals, and we treat them as brothers,” Infanti said, noting that the Iraqi soldiers will continue to train and work with the 4-31. “They’re more ready than they were nine months ago,” he said. “If you wait for everything to be perfect, you’ll never get anything done.”
Sheikh Ammash Rabaiyyat, head of the Al-Rashid municipal council, was delighted by the ceremony.
“I’m very proud of the Iraqi army,” he said. “They’re able to take care of the whole area, and we’re on the right path. This is how it should be, with a lot of co-operation between the Iraqi army, Coalition Forces and the tribal leaders against terrorism.
“Now we must work harder than ever to keep our area safe, and I thank the Americans for all the hard work they’ve done in Mahmudiyah and Yusufiyah,” Rabaiyyat said.
And although the Iraqis formally have control of the area of operations now, they – and their fellow citizens – understand that the way will not be easy.
“It will be great,” said Gherbi Abbas Jassim, the Mahmudiyah qadaa, or area council, security minister. “As long as the Americans continue to support the Iraqi Army, it will be wonderful. We’ve seen a big change even over the last week – there were no car bombs, no terrorist acts. I think in a year, it will be perfect and very quiet.”
Infanti is one of the Americans who has worked most closely with the 4/4/6, and watched the formal ceremony with interest.
“This makes all the sacrifices our unit has made worth it,” he said.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 8:52 AM
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center PAO
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq – U.S. Soldiers discovered a weapons cache southwest of the Baghdad Airport Complex May 7.
Company D, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., discovered the cache at around 8:52 a.m. near Radwaniyah while conducting a search-and-attack mission in the area.
Found were 17 60mm mortar rounds, seven 82 mm mortar rounds, five 105 mm artillery rounds, four 120 mm artillery rounds, five 122 mm artillery rounds and 27 mortar fuses.
The rounds were configured for both indirect fire and for use as improvised explosive devises.
The cache was in close proximity to a historic IED site.
The owner of the property was detained and is being held for questioning.
The ordnance was destroyed in a series of two controlled detonations conducted by the explosive ordnance team.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 8:51 AM
Saturday, May 12, 2007
By Spec. Josh LeCappelain
10th Mountain Division Journalist
A meeting last year spurred 15 Army Family members to create a unique cookbook, with proceeds benefiting Soldiers deployed overseas.
Members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team “Commandos” Cookbook Committee banded together and drew upon their own private collections as well as those of parents and friends for the 838 recipes included in the book. Included in the wide variety of recipes are two special sections – “Just for Kids” and “Our Soldier’s Favorite.”
The committee had a hand in every aspect of the creative process, selecting a hard-back cover for durability and working with Elizabeth Nunziato, a graphic arts designer, on several designs. Finally, they settled on one they felt best represented 2nd BCT.
Priced at $18, proceeds from sales of the book will be divided among the six battalions in 2nd BCT.
Additionally, a dollar from each sale will go to the 2nd BCT “Friends of the Commandos” Fund, which purchases a gym bag that contains an athletic suit, shorts and T-shirts for wounded brigade Soldiers at military medical facilities.
“Our wounded Soldiers are very important to the (2nd) Brigade, and sometimes recovery can be long and difficult,” said Alisa Mahoney, chairman of the cookbook committee. “The items that we provide allow us to say ‘thank you’ in a small way for all that they are going through during recovery and how much we appreciate what they do for all Americans.”
For more information or to purchase a cookbook, e-mail Alisa Mahoney at email@example.com.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 5:42 PM
Thursday, May 10, 2007
From Army Magazine
By Dennis Steele
The bare steel and concrete ribs of a massive unfinished power plant tower above a lazy curl of the Euphrates River in the farmlands southwest of Baghdad. The Russian construction crew that worked on the plant for several years dropped everything and left when Coalition forces stormed across the Iraq border four years ago, leaving the huge complex a derelict monument to grandiose plans, halfhearted workmanship and the sudden realization that no more of Saddam Hussein’s checks were going to clear.
Cranes, cable spools, welding sets and boxcar-sized turbines sit rusting in the yard, but the plywood walls of a mess hall, weight room, command post and sleeping areas are recent additions.
American soldiers have moved in and cobbled the ghostly complex into an outpost called Patrol Base Dragon. Today, it is home to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry (A/2-14 Infantry) from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).
Posters are tacked to the walls; handheld video games, MP3 players and laptop computers lay on cots; and air conditioners are jammed into cutouts. An Internet café is open around the clock, and a jerry-rigged shower drips around the clock, too. The shaving water is tepid, but steaming breakfasts and dinners are served from a mobile kitchen trailer; boxes of Hot Pockets are set out for lunch. You can get a cold soda from a brace of refrigerators anytime you want—until the week’s soda allotment runs out, which is about the third day after delivery—but soldiers share with each other goodies they receive in care packages from home. You find that selfishness diminishes in direct correlation to how rough soldiers live. All in all, life’s not bad at Patrol Base Dragon. Certainly, it’s nothing to
compare with the relative creature comforts of the big American camps and forward operating bases (FOBs) in Iraq: that would be like comparing a shantytown to Las Vegas. However, the soldiers of A/2-14 Infantry say they would rather be at the patrol base than a super FOB. They say it feels rather strange when they rotate back to Camp Striker for less than 72 hours every nine or 10 days. Most of them feel it is useful only for getting
laundry done, grabbing a haircut and restocking snacks. OK, sure, you can grab a milk shake, but you also have to put up with overhearing soldiers who never leave the FOB called “fobbits” in the current vernacular) talk about how rough they’ve got it.
Morale is exponentially higher among small units at places like Patrol Base Dragon because of the intangibles: a sense of collective self-reliance; making do with what you’ve got; depending on your buddies and taking care of your buddies; only the arms room really needs a lock; everyone talks to each other; everyone pulls his weight; and, if you really need it, somebody will give you his last pair of clean pair of socks … or a pint of blood. There’s no way to name it all, and no price you can put on any of it.
Another thing they have is an around-the-clock, real-world mission—sharp-edged, ground-pounder stuff: finding weapon caches; raiding improvised explosive device (IED) factories; catching bad guys … shooting it out with them if it comes to that; sitting though a rainstorm on a crummy observation post; working to gain the confidence of the locals and joking with their kids. A place like Patrol Base Dragon means soldiering at the retail level. Sure, it’s dangerous, but at the end of a patrol, there’s a good chance there will be something to show for it.
The 2nd BCT, 10th Mountain Division, has patrol bases scattered throughout its area of operations (AO); it focused on establishing them as soon as the brigade arrived in Iraq.
“During our training [for the deployment], we tapped into Vietnam veterans to learn from their experiences,” said Lt. Col. John Valledor, commander of the 2-14 Infantry.
“They said you need to live forward in-zone to successfully engage in a classic counterinsurgency operation.”
“The insurgency we’re fighting [in this AO] is strictly … Sunni extremists, who have been here for quite some time,” Col. Valledor explained. “[Among them] we have
the 1920 Revolutionary Brigades group, which is involved with al Qaeda. … All told there are probably four distinct and [discordant] Sunni groups, and the fact that they are
not working together makes it easier for us. My feeling is that the strong al Qaeda guys have been displaced and that we’re dealing with factionalized Sunni extremist groups
that are still here because of the lack of governance. And that is why we are trying very hard to convince the sheiks and everyone else to become involved in the political
“Fighting an insurgency involves being out there with the people, not fighting from an FOB,” Col. Valledor said. “Our soldiers are fighting in-zone. We don’t drive to work.”
A/2-14 Infantry occupied the power plant in late October after a short stint at the nearby Gator Swamp patrol base. The plant had been an off-and-on insurgent training camp and launch point for attacks and kidnappings, but the company took the facility without resistance. An Iraqi Army company has since colocated with the American soldiers
Most of the operations and routine patrols launched from the base are dismounted. “Patrol bases are fantastic,” said Capt. Daniel Hurd, the A/2-14 Infantry commander. “We’ve detained 40 insurgents in the past two and a half months and not one of them was
in a truck; we haven’t struck an IED in one of our vehicles because we don’t use vehicles.”
“The most dangerous part in being out here is going back and forth to
Camp Striker,” added 1st Sgt. David Schumacher. “You can sit in a vehicle on the highway all day long, but that won’t make you safer,” Capt. Hurd said. “We’re safer here not because we sit on the road and wave at people. We’re safer because we get out and get around.” “We have soldiers wearing 60 pounds of gear running down a guy who’s not carrying anything,” the first sergeant said. “Our dismounted operations disrupt the enemy about 10 times more effectively than if we were just rolling around. Being dismounted keeps our guys safe, and they are more likely to spot something.”
“Our soldiers are better focused,” Capt. Hurd added. “When they step outside they know they’re in al Qaeda land. And because we’re always here at the patrol base or on patrol, the local people see that we’re here to stay,” Capt. Hurd said. “They are opening up and talking.”
“Maintaining this patrol base isn’t a logistics nightmare. We’re pretty low maintenance,” said 1st Sgt. Schumacher. “We’re fortunate here because the place is so big that we have room for a dining facility, maintenance bay and aid station, but a patrol base will work no matter what you have. All you need is a house that you can secure and, brother, you’re in sector.”
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 2:38 PM
Sgt. Ben Brody
BAGHDAD – In an increasingly common display of interagency cooperation, Iraqi army soldiers and Iraqi national police, aided by U.S. forces, conducted a raid in Al Dhour Monday morning, netting four suspected insurgents.
As darkness fell that night, soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, along with Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry, 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, boarded UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters to stealthily cordon off the targeted neighborhood.
The element of surprise
Once on the ground, joint teams moved quickly and quietly on foot, using moonlight and night vision goggles to navigate the uneven terrain, crisscrossed with irrigation ditches.
Once the dismounted teams were in place, Iraqi national police arrived in Badger armored vehicles to reinforce the cordon, freeing the dismounts to search homes in the former Republican Guard housing area.
“We’ve previously found weapons in this area, and we suspect the neighborhood was used as a staging area for recent car bomb attacks,” said Maj. Steve Simkins, 1/89 Cav. operations officer. “It’s an important transition point for militants moving in and out of southern Baghdad.”
Within the cordon, the force searched about 100 homes and a Sunni mosque, looking for suspects on C Troop, 1/89 Cav.’s list of persons of interest. All males discovered from age 15 to about 60 were led into the street to be checked against the list en masse.
As the primarily Iraqi force moved down Al Dhour’s dark streets, the line of local men grew steadily behind them. Women watched the quiet procession from their rooftops.
After all the neighborhood’s homes were searched, about 90 men were checked against the target list, and four matched the list exactly. Those four were transported to a detention facility, while the others were sent home.
“We decided to air assault on the objective to catch the insurgent element by surprise,” Simkins said. “If we just drove in, they could see us coming from about five kilometers away.”
Leaving as unobtrusively as they arrived, the Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers melted back into the dark fields outside of town and met with the helicopters that brought them in. Minutes later, the troops were back at Camp Striker, congratulating each other on a job well done and discussing their options for breakfast.
Training the Iraqi army
The U.S. Soldiers who participated in the mission are members of 1/89 Cav.’s Military Transition Team, a unit that is responsible for training Iraqi soldiers to work effectively, and ultimately, independently.
“The Iraqi soldiers who are picked for the air assault missions are the really squared-away guys,” said Sgt. Jerrod Solomon, a nine-month veteran of the 1/89 Cav. MiTT. “We’ve got guys from all over Baghdad, with all different backgrounds, working together as a team.”
Solomon, of Augusta, Ga., and the bulk of the 1/89 Cav. MiTT are based at Lion’s Den, a patrol base where U.S. and Iraqi troops live and work together.
According to Simkins, nine months ago the soldiers of 3/4/6 Iraqi army battalion operated three traffic checkpoints and their base was mortared every day.
“We worked with their staff to get the intel picture of their area, and got them out patrolling their streets,” Simkins said. “They were primarily Shia, pro-American guys, who just needed some motivation and direction. At the squad and platoon level, they’ve made great progress.”
The mortars stopped falling as the Iraqi unit’s influence grew in their area of operations. The purchase of new, heavily armored vehicles like the Badger has increased the Iraqi troops’ confidence, Simkins said.
“The next step for the unit is to have them finding their own intelligence, using that intel to plan operations and executing without assistance,” Simkins said.
Seeing U.S. and Iraqi forces working together is nothing new. But this operation highlighted an increasing push to coordinate operations between the Iraqi national police and the Iraqi army.
Forces from 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Iraqi National Police Division, who operate checkpoints on a highway near Al Dhour, brought several vehicles to strengthen the cordon around the neighborhood.
A car bomb attack on one of the INP checkpoints, likely staged from Al Dhour, hardened the police force’s resolve to secure the neighborhood, Simkins said.
“The army and the INPs worked together pretty well,” Simkins said. “The locals can look out their front door and see the cooperation.”
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 9:31 AM
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Maj. Shawn Schuldt (left), a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who serves as the brigade supply officer for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., reads a short history of the Order of Saint Martin, an award given by the Quartermaster Corps, after Staff Sgt. Joseph Johansen (right), a native of Carson, Calif., was awarded the medallion at a ceremony at the Camp Striker dining facility May 6. Johansen, who serves as the supply sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT, received the award for "the highest standard of integrity and moral character and... an outstanding degree of professional competence." Saint Martin, the patron saint of the Quartermaster Regiment, is reputed to have cut his cloak in half for an itinerant beggar. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Jon Cano, 2nd BCT PAO)
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 9:15 AM
Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — It is common knowledge the Army is made up of a diverse fighting force – different nationalities, genders and religious backgrounds.
To honor the Army’s diversity, Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., celebrated Asian-Pacific Islander Heritage Month Saturday during a ceremony on Camp Striker, Iraq.
“May is Asian-Pacific Islander Heritage Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States,” said Staff Sgt. Jerry Moses, the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT equal opportunity representative. “In 1992, President George H.W. Bush designated May to be Asian-Pacific Islander Heritage Month. And tonight we are commemorating how the Asian-Pacific Islanders have helped create what our country is today.”
To kick off the celebration, Chaplain (Capt.) Daniel Kang, of 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT and native of Seoul, Korea, gave some insight of how different Soldiers’ background blend together to create a unique organization.
“You can kind of refer the different Soldiers’ backgrounds to a bowl of salad,” Kang explained. “You have many different ingredients that make a salad. And same goes with the Army – there are many different backgrounds to create a great organization.”
After Kang gave his speech, Soldiers watched Generation X, an Asian-Pacific Islander music group who sang about the Civil War in the Philippines.
“They sounded great,” said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Drayton, the 2nd BCT equal opportunity advisor.
Soldiers took a minute to share their thoughts during the observance.
“My wife is a Pacific-Islander and it was nice to see this observance commemorating them (the Pacific-Islanders),” said Sgt. Steven Pitts, a 210th BSB operations sergeant.
And to further give others an understanding of the Asian-Pacific Islander culture a Soldier from Saipan performed the Fire Dance, an ancient warrior tradition in Saipan.
“At home this dance was a warrior dance for people to get ready for battle,” said Pfc. A.J. Mettao, a Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT aviation operations specialist. “The warriors would fire dance with paint on their face and get everyone motivated.”
Mettao’s rendition of the Fire Dance gathered a large crowd who watched every move and twirl made with the stick of fire.
Mettao commented about why he chose to perform the dance.
“I just, pretty much, wanted to represent all of the people back home – all of the islanders that can’t be out here,” he said. “I just want to let them know that even though I am in the Army I still have their back – I am still rooting for them.”
The ceremony ended with smiles and Soldiers’ better understanding of the Asian-Pacific Islander culture.
“I have never seen anything like this before,” Pitts added. “It (the show) was amazing.”
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 9:13 AM
Monday, May 07, 2007
By Mark Bowden
When the Army extended the tours last month for about 100,000 soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, one of those affected was my friend Matt Eversmann, who is presently living in an abandoned potato factory in Yusufiyah.
He is a first sergeant, the top noncommissioned officer leading Alpha Company of the 10th Mountain Division. He has lost two of his men since being deployed last summer, and more than a dozen more have been injured. His wife, Tori, had been counting down the months of Alpha Company's tour, which was supposed to end this summer. Now it will stretch until November. It will likely be the last of Matt's military career. He is approaching his 20th year of service, and with 4-year-old daughter Molly at home, he plans to retire and start a new civilian career. So the announcement of the extension hit his family like a punch in the gut.
"It is really bad news," said Tori. "I am trying hard not to be angry. I was angry, but I'm not any more. It is so demoralizing for us. . . . We have always known that it was a possibility, but when you are marking off the months one by one, it's just really hard to take."
Tori and the families of other soldiers serving in dangerous zones around the world are a tiny fraction of the American population, but they are bearing the enormous burden of fear, grief, injury, loss and risk for all of us. The Iraq war in particular has gone on now longer than World War II, but unlike that national struggle, the rest of us have been asked to sacrifice little or nothing.
Allison Nelson, whose husband serves with Matt, is waiting out their fourth deployment to Iraq. She feels that her own life - she is hoping to go to college to get her M.B.A. - is on hold in the rural area around Fort Drum in Upstate New York. She fears the now-15-month tour will be extended again before things are over.
"I wake up every morning just hoping I get through the day without getting another bad phone call," she said. "And I worry every day that men will show up at my door" - referring to the bereavement visit paid the families of men killed in action.
"It feels to me like the rest of America is trundling along like nothing is happening," said Tori.
I first met Matt more than 10 years ago on the first trip I took for The Inquirer series and book Black Hawk Down. I flew from Philadelphia to Columbus, Ga., to interview eight Rangers at Fort Benning who were veterans of the Battle of Mogadishu. Before writing that book, I had little or no experience with the military, having never served or written about it. So I didn't know what to expect. I imagined that Rangers, an elite unit in the Army, were probably made up mostly of young, rough-and-tumble, daredevil men disinclined to reflect deeply on their experience. I expected it would be difficult to get them to open up about their memories and feelings.
Was I ever wrong. Matt was the first soldier I met, and, coincidently, ended up being the first soldier mentioned in my book. He is tall, in the neighborhood of six-five, and gangly, and thin, with a head of rapidly vanishing dark straight hair. He was mesmerizing. I might have asked five or 10 questions in the two hours we spoke. Most of the time I just spent listening and learning. Many of the men I met researching that book have remained good friends.
Matt was rough-and-tumble all right, but he was also intelligent, well-read, articulate, reflective and deeply principled. His patriotism was strong and unabashed. Neither he nor I had an inkling that day that Black Hawk Down would someday enter the world's vocabulary - I had not even started thinking about a title - but I left Matt and the other Rangers I interviewed on that trip moved not just by their stories, but also by their profound, tested commitment to serving our country.
And yet, for many of them, that service was just beginning. For Matt, it has extended from the hellish firestorm on the streets of Mogadishu to the protracted and painful military effort in Iraq. He is just one of dozens of veterans of the 1993 battle who are still risking life and limb to do this country's hardest work. Regardless of how you feel about the war in Iraq, we owe them all a debt that will never fully be repaid.
When you read about our volunteer military being stretched to the breaking point, don't think just about the implications for global security and America's ability to act. Think about Tori Eversmann and the hundreds of thousands of spouses, parents, and other loved ones eagerly marking their calendars; wincing at the daily body counts, and waiting anxiously to hear what city, what division, what company, what unit; counting down the end of not just one tour in a war zone, but many, with no end in sight.
Matt will never complain. He is a professional soldier, and he knew better than most what he was volunteering for each time he re-upped. Besides, it is not in him to complain.
"The boys and I are hanging tough over here, despite the latest news," he e-mailed me last month. "I wish I could rant and rave about the extension, but in reality, I cannot. Sure, it sucks missing Molly's birthday and the litany of big events, but we serve, bottom line. Kind of makes three months in Mogadishu seem like a cakewalk."
I still remember when I found out that Hollywood heartthrob Josh Hartnett would be playing Matt in the movie version of Black Hawk Down. I found a fetching portrait of the movie star, posing with shoulder-length hair on a beach, and e-mailed it to Matt, who got a good laugh out of it. He wrote back, "I know they say they stretch the truth in movies, but this is ridiculous!" There was little chance any of it would go to his head.
In that battle, Matt was a young staff sergeant with his first small command, the 15 Rangers on his "chalk" or file. Today he is a middle-aged first sergeant responsible for 140 men. He is also something of a celebrity.
"Believe it or not, all these Iraqi soldiers that I train?" he wrote. "They all know about Black Hawk Down. It's insane!"
Mark Bowden is a former staff writer at The Inquirer and is now national correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 10:30 AM
Sunday, May 06, 2007
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — Coalition forces facilitated an Iraqi media tour Saturday southwest of Baghdad.
Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) facilitated the tour at the Yusufiyah Thermal Power Plant in Yusufiyah, Iraq.
During the tour Iraqi media had a chance to interview officers from the 3rd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division.
Media from Al-Iraqiya and Al-Hurriya, both Iraqi television stations, talked with the IA officers about the decrease in terrorist attacks in the Yusufiyah area and how the Yusufiyah Thermal Power Plant has the potential to employ and provide power to Iraqi local nationals.
“The tour went extremely well,” said Lt. Col. Frank Andrews, the 2nd BCT executive officer. “It was important for the Iraqi press to come to these areas where security has improved - through the IA and coalition presence - and publicize the opportunities for rebuilding Iraq.”
The media was also given a tour of the YTPP and were able to eat lunch there.
The interviews with the 3-4-6 IA officers will air on the two Iraqi television stations during the week.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:46 PM
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — Iraqi soldiers discovered a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in Mahmudiyah today.
Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division noticed the VBIED along a highway in north Mahmudiyah.
Upon discovery of the VBIED, 2-4-6 IA soldiers contacted the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., who then cordoned off the area and escorted the explosive ordnance disposal team to the site.
The EOD team executed a controlled detonation of the VBIED.
The incident is under investigation.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:46 PM
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
LUTIFIYAH, Iraq — Iraqi forces detained three suspected terrorists and discovered a weapons and ammunition Monday in Lutifiyah, Iraq.
Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division detained the suspected terrorists and found the cache during a routine combat operation.
While conducting a search of a Lutifiyah neighborhood, the soldiers discovered the weapons in a house.
The items captured included two hand grenades, two AK-47s and four magazines.
The suspected terrorists were detained for being in the house that contained the weapons.
The detainees are being held for further questioning.
The items were destroyed during a controlled detonation conducted by the explosive ordinance team.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:44 PM
By Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
FORWARD OPERATING BASE YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — “We’ve never lost a … U.S. patient here,” said Capt. Christopher Tilton, a physician’s assistant with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).
Tilton, optimistically boasts that wounded Soldiers who come to his aid station on Forward Operating Base Yusufiyah have a great chance of surviving.
It’s an impressive claim to be able to make, considering that Yusufiyah has historically been an area where many Soldiers and Iraqi civilians alike are wounded.
Spc. Fernando Gallegos, a native of Torrance, Calif., and a medic also assigned to Company A, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, out of Fort Drum, N.Y., said he enjoys the challenges of his job.
“We see a lot of massive trauma here,” Gallegos said. “Gunshot and improvised explosive device wounds, lacerations and heavy bleeding. I get really calm (when I’m working). Everyone has fear, but I find I think very clearly. Sometimes I do things without even realizing it.”
The work he does as an Army medic will serve him later, he hopes.
“To have experience like this – it makes people who they are and who they will become in the future. I want to be a firefighter when I leave the Army, and spontaneous treatment of casualties will help out in the emergency medical services aspect of that.”
The battalion often conducts medical operations in local villages. They set up litters as examination tables and bring traveling pharmacies to treat local Iraqi citizens for everything from minor coughs and colds to serious burns and shrapnel wounds. But the local nationals around the FOB bring their wounded to the aid station, knowing they can receive care that is otherwise nearly impossible.
“This brigade is big on conducting (medical operations),” Tilton said. “We do them almost every day. I think it’s safe to say that every other aid station in the brigade combined still hasn’t seen as many patients as we have.”
Most of the patients the medics and providers treat are children younger than 15 years old, said Tilton.
Sgt. Jason Lane, a native of Austin, Texas, recently treated a two-month-old infant for a stomach virus. The child’s father brought him in late one evening.
“He hadn’t been able to keep food down for about a day,” Lane said. “We gave him baby formula and instructions on how to give it to him and how often. It was more of a tutorial on parenting.”
The Soldiers enjoy helping the Iraqis, but building strong relationships with the Soldiers they work with is essential, said Sgt. Charles Fields, a native of New York, N.Y., because it reduces fear in combat.
“If Soldiers know they have good medics, they’ll take more risks, because they know their medics will take care of them,” he said.
Still, some of the most difficult work is with the Iraqi civilians.
“Terrorists mortared a playground,” said Fields, recalling an incident not long after the brigade arrived in Yusufiyah. “There were a lot of children, and most of them ended up dying. That lasted hours. It was terrible; that was my first time working with children like that. I’d never seen children so badly wounded.”
Now, he said, things have calmed down – at least a little.
“Sometimes we go a week without seeing a trauma, and then we’ll have a week with 20.”
And despite the things they see – which many people would find too disturbing – they manage to find humor.
“They continually keep morale up and do a phenomenal job,” said 1st Lt. Aaron Brooks, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., who serves as the battalion’s medical operations officer. “They’re definitely a huge asset to the brigade, to say the least. They’re amazing.”
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:34 PM
By Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center PAO
FORWARD OPERATING BASE YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — In the village of Yusufiyah, Iraq, representatives refuse to stand still and allow the fear of explosions to stop them from discussing issues.
Several members from the Yusufiyah nahia, or local council, met Sunday at the Joint Security Station in Yusufiyah to discuss projects with civil affairs officers from 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., and the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion, out of Perrine, Fla., and attached to 4-31 Inf.
Many projects that 4-31 have begun in the community are complete or nearing completion – including streetlights for the town, especially the market area, garbage pickup, and irrigation canal cleanup and improvement.
But some of the projects, such as a soccer field in the Ar-Barash-Tamuz neighborhood and a fire station for the village, are momentarily stalled as the citizens try to determine the best places for them. Since the various representatives were together, they began discussing among themselves different ideas and mentioning people who might be willing to sell or donate land for the projects.
Capt. Chris Sanchez, a civil affairs officer with 4-31, has brokered many of the project meetings over the last several months. He said that it was the first time the Yusufiyah locals had talked so animatedly and begun figuring things out for themselves rather than passing ideas through him, a valuable step in getting the Iraqi village to assume control of local governance and planning.
Still, there are areas where American presence is still needed. The main canal through the area comes through the village of Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, northwest of Yusufiyah, and a water gate there is broken, letting too much water through and alarming the locals.
“Currently, the water flow might cause another break. We’re very edgy,” said Al-Assid. “Time is not on our side with this.”
However, with security issues in the space between the villages, communication is nearly impossible without U.S. help. So, Sanchez spoke to the civil operations Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, stationed in Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, to get the damage repaired.
A water pumping station also ran into contract difficulties with the fuel provider, and the water pumps, left from Hussein’s time, are failing. Muhammad Hasehm Al Meheyawi asked for a backup pump of higher quality, which would not be available without American contracting assistance.
The meeting provided a forum for the representatives to get together as U.S. forces provided security. While Yusufiyah is a great deal safer than it was before, like most of Iraq, it is not yet free of violence.
“The meeting went really well,” said Sanchez, a native of Los Angeles. “What made it go so well was all the ministry representatives talking to each other. That’s the intent – we want them to figure things out without us being there. Everyone was open about their projects and issues.”
Abbas Abbas Al-Sakbari, the nahia’s electrical engineer, was visibly excited when Sanchez mentioned that an American electrical engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be visiting to help install streetlights in the market and improve the electrical infrastructure.
“I won’t sleep,” Al-Sakbari said. “I’ll want to stay up all night with him, discussing things we can do with better electricity.”
“I’m glad to see them coming up with their own projects and addressing the needs of their area with the Iraqi government,” said Sanchez.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:33 PM
By Zeke Minaya, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Thursday, May 3, 2007
YUSAFIYAH, Iraq — Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?”
It’s a question Capts. Matt Dawson, 29, of Milwaukee, and Tom Garvey, 26, of Cleveland, often ask themselves.
The officers are the masterminds behind the operation names for the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, N.Y. And to Dawson and Garvey, there is equal parts art and science to the task.
A good mission name is memorable, descriptive of the operation, and, if it works, boosts morale, they say.
“There is a method to the madness,” Dawson said.
They wouldn’t, for example, send soldiers from the unit — nicknamed the Polar Bears — on a combat mission dubbed “Operation Polar Petunia,” Dawson said. “You have to think to yourself, if this mission goes down in history, how will it be remembered.”
Before there is a mission, there is a mission name, Dawson said. Deciding on an operation moniker launches the planning process, he said.
“Sometimes the hardest part of planning an operation is coming up with a cool name,” Dawson said.
Garvey added: “Sometimes we get it in a minute or two and sometimes it takes two days.”
Recently, though, there has been added difficulty. The battalion has launched a fair amount of missions while stationed around Yusafiyah, a small agricultural town south of Baghdad, notoriously referred to in the early days of the war as part of the “Triangle of Death.”
The Polar Bears have logged 36 operations in eight months.
“There are only so many words that make sense with ‘polar,’ ” Dawson said of the growing shortage of names.
The early mission names were simple. Dawson and Garvey went through operations Polar Blizzard, Polar Storm and Polar Thunder.
“We did a lot of weather stuff,” Dawson said. As the missions piled up, the captains moved to other genres.
“We had sports themes, weapons names,” Dawson said. “Everybody aspires to being original and creative.”
But there are limits, they said.
Operation names cannot dehumanize the enemy or risk being offensive. They also cannot depict the unit as acting in any way other than as a professionals. Therefore, operation monikers like Polar Rage, or Polar Retribution are out, Dawson said.
“We don’t use names that have a barbaric or imperialistic connotations,” he said. “We get a lot of inappropriate suggestions,” he said.
They have also gotten one or two good tips, they said. The hands-down favorite name so far for the captains has been Operation Polar Anvil of Crom, a reference to the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “Conan The Barbarian.”
“Anvil of Crom got a lot of fanfare,” Garvey said.
“There’s no way to judge what’s cool, you just know,” Dawson said.
With the pace of missions not slowing down, the captains have many brainstorming sessions in their future, they said. They have a board in their shared office where they list possibilities.
“We are drifting toward mythological figures like Operation Polar Hercules,” Dawson said.
“It’s getting a little difficult,” Garvey conceded.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:32 PM
By: Andrew Lubin
“Last night we captured a .50 cal, a couple of thousands of rounds of ammunition, and a sniper rife,” Captain Ryan Liebhaber said to me. “Tonight we’re going to get the people involved. Are you in?”
Bravo Troop, 1/ 89, 10th Mountain Division is based south of Baghdad, and was one of the two Army units originally extended back in January. But under the command of Col. Michael Kershaw, morale has not suffered excessively. Kershaw consistently explains the missions and ideals to his troops, and has developed an aggressive plan of action to keep his area of operations, or AO, as quiet as possible.
The mission was simple, yet not so. This was a night-time “cordon & search” event, leaving after midnight, in pursuit of 20-25 “targets of opportunity.” The human intelligence that Col. Kershaw and his men painstakingly developed in the past months has been paying dividends. Several phoned-in tips from local residents led to tonight’s operation.
Bravo Troop is a cavalry unit that provides both a reconnaissance and fighting function. “We’re an R-S-T-A unit,” Leibhaber explained, “which means reconnaissance – surveillance – target – acquisition. We can search and we can fight.”
And Bravo Troop wasn’t alone. This was yet another joint American – Iraqi Army mission. Two trucks of Iraqi soldiers joined our small column of humvees that night.
Without moonlight at night, Iraq is an incredibly dark country. Outside of Baghdad, there is almost no artificial light, so the American convoys navigate via GPS and NVGs. As the convoy rolled through the darkness to the attack point, we broke open our infrared nightsticks and attached them to the front and back of our flak jackets. If a firefight broke out or one of the troops got separated, the infrared sticks would be easily visible to other soldiers using NVG’s.
Gun Truck # 1, whose crew is pictured above, drove out under the command of SSGT John Ferree, with PFC Caleb Couch driving, and PFC Drew Peden standing in the gun turret. PFC Wolph Rudolf and I shared the two back seats in the humvee.
Our objective was a small village about 6 kms south and west from 10th MTN. The convoy abruptly drove off the paved road onto a rough dirt track, and then bounced completely off-road up to several low, dark houses. Two humvees parked themselves in front of the house as the remaining vehicles took up positions. We had surrounded the four houses that contained our suspects.
As the radios crackled, suddenly the doors to the humvees all opened. The assault teams formed up to take down each house. With Peden and the other turret gunners staying behind to provide security, the Bravo Troop soldiers burst into each of the four houses. Lights flickered and came on as the American and Iraqi soldiers rousted the men, women, and children. They quickly separated the military-age men from the non-combatants.
Only one house offered loud verbal opposition. Some of the women shrieked in surprise as their front door burst open and the armed soldiers rushed in and flexi-cuffed their quarry. Their screams carried loudly through the village on the night breeze, and no one else was apprehended. Perhaps the women had been calling out a warning? We weren’t sure.
While the modus operandi was similar in each house, the results were all different. One house was deserted. Another had food still warm on the stove; clearly the occupants had been warned that we were coming and they scattered prior to our arrival. A total of nine military-age males who were worth questioning were rounded up, and, after sending some soldiers up to the rooftops in order to secure the roofs and provide over-watch, the questioning began.
Although Bravo Troop was looking for any bad guys at all, they were primarily looking for Dahan xxx xxx, who been fingered by an informant as the provider of the machine gun and other heavy weapons. Under the command of 1Lt John Breslin, an officer with the 1/89th's Alpha Troop, the males were flexi-cuffed for security, and placed in different rooms so they couldn’t talk to each other. Simultaneously, Lt Breslin ordered his men to thoroughly check each house for weapons, bomb-making materials, any incriminating paperwork or pictures, as well as anything else of interest. Pictures of non-family males are always of interest, as are larger-than-normal caches of food.
With the interpreter at his side, the LT questioned each suspect. He seemed to concentrate on how they answered each question as much as the answer itself. Where is Dahan? What time tonight did he flee? We know he is based here, when did you see him last? Does he have two or three followers?
We received a variety of answers. Two men admitted to seeing Dahan yesterday. Five said they’d seen him within 2 - 4 months. Another claimed no knowledge of him whatsoever.
As the interrogations continued, a large quantity of fertilizer was discovered. Diammonium phosphate 18-46-0. Since we were clearly in a farming community, the possession of fertilizer made sense. However, DAP mixed with diesel fuel makes for a potent bomb. Is the DAP legitimate, or did we stumble into a bomb-making HQ?
After we found the fertilizer, one of the Iraqi ladies came out into the night to berate us. With her chador billowing around her in the night breeze, she gesticulated wildly with her hands, expressing her displeasure loudly and concisely as she commented about who would wake her children and arrest her men.
Lt Breslin listened to her courteously, gave her a polite non-answer, and had her escorted to another room. With the interrogations going in circles, the LT brought in his trump card; an Iraqi Army soldier who would take over the questioning. The dismay of the detainees was evident, and upon continuing the negotiations, one of the men quickly mentioned that Dahan’s brother was living in the next house, some 50 yards away. We walked over and detained him.
By 0500 the questioning was over, and the group readied itself to return to base. While no weapons or arms were seized, the detainees were all marched to the awaiting trucks for further questioning in the next days. Several of the detainees appeared “almost co-operative.” Often, I’m told, they will talk more if placed under the auspices of being detained.
I left the next day, and never found out what happened with the weapons or detainees. But that night was “all in a day’s work” for American and Iraqi soldiers stationed in South Baghdad.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:31 PM
By Spc. D. A. Dickinson
Mahmudiyah, Iraq -- After providing more than 330 Iraqi citizens with medical attention April 11, Soldiers from Fort Drum, N.Y., helped 217 more people the next day.
Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment and the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion, both from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, brought medical assistance and supplies to the people of Mamudiyah, Iraq. The previous day’s mission was carried out in Latifyah.
The missions were part of an effort to improve relations with the local Iraqi people, said 2nd Lt. Nicole McNish, executive officer for Headquarters Battery, 2-15 FA.
The units conduct such medical operations at least four times a month, said Spc. Cecilia Morales, a medic with Company C, Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div.
The clinic was set up at a local boys’ school with soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment of the Iraqi army assisting with security.
“Sometimes finding a good location can be a challenge,” said Capt. Ian McKenna, commander of HHB, 2-15 FA.
Having local medical providers is also an issue,” McKenna said. “There are a lot of problems that we can’t fix at a one-stop shop. We’re here, we can address the little things, but we can’t fix the long-term things like diabetes, hypertension or allergies.”
While McKenna acknowledged the shortcomings of the system, he was quick to praise the efforts of his Iraqi counterparts, such as Capt. Assad Muhammad Hamad, Headquarters and Service Company commander of 4-6.
“He’s a little guy with a big heart – the heart of a lion,” McKenna said. “We work well together with the Iraqi army, so security is not a big issue.”
McKenna said that he thinks some big changes will need to be made in order to see dramatic improvements in Iraq’s health care.
“It’s still good,” he said. “It shows the Iraqis are taking the lead.”
In spite of the disappointment of not being able to provide long-term solutions, Soldiers who participated in the mission had positive things to say about the end results.
“We helped 217 people today,” said Sgt. John Sniadecki, a radar operator and the commander of the relief for Mamudiyah Base Defense Operations Center.
Other medical personnel also expressed why they felt it was a success.
“I feel pretty good,” said Pfc. Lisa Doeker, a medic attached to HHB 2-15 FA. “It’s a nice way to give back to the Iraqi people. And it’s a nice change from trauma.”
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:30 PM
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — U.S. and Iraqi forces detained nine suspected terrorists and discovered weapons in Mahmudiyah Wednesday.
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division and the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., detained the suspected terrorists and discovered the weapons during Operation Eagle Thunder III, an operation intended to prevent enemy attacks against coalition forces.
During the operation, Soldiers cleared and searched areas within Mahmudiyah, concentrating on the canals.
While conducting searches of the area, Soldiers found a weapons cache in the reed lines that consisted of homemade grenades.
Also discovered during the operation were two improvised explosive devices.
The suspected terrorists were detained for suspicious activity and are being held for further questioning.
The weapons were destroyed during a controlled detonation conducted by the explosive ordnance team.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:29 PM
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
FORWARD OPERATING BASE YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — Iraqi and U.S. forces conducted Operation Polar Scrum Tuesday, resulting in 85 terror suspects detained and an improvised explosive device found during the all-day mission.
Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division and the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment “Polar Bears,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., conducted the mission near Yusufiyah following an April 9 IED strike on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle on a nearby road.
Reports indicated the presence of anti-Iraqi forces in the area that have emplaced IEDs to deter coalition patrols.
At about 9 a.m., the combined patrol discovered an IED. Soldiers disarmed the device and disposed of it.
Soldiers of 4-31 returned fire after they were engaged by small-arms fire at about 10 a.m. Neighborhood residents told the Soldiers that two wounded terrorists were moving through houses in the area. The men were found and detained.
The detainees were taken to coalition base for questioning.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:29 PM
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO, Multi-National Division – Center PAO
BAGHDAD— Coalition forces discovered two improvised explosive devices and a weapons cache southwest of Baghdad today.
Soldiers from B Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Benning, Ga., currently attached to the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment “Polar Bears,” and the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment “Golden Dragons,” both units of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., discovered the weapons.
The first IED was discovered by 2-69 Armor Soldiers southwest of Yusufiyah at 9:35 a.m. local time.
Soldiers of D Co., 4-31 Inf. discovered another IED in the vicinity of Rushdi Mullah at 10:05 a.m. local time, while conducting a dismounted patrol. The IED was found near a wood line in a white plastic bag.
In another incident, the Golden Dragons found a weapons cache near Rushdi Mullah.
The cache consisted of three rocket-propelled grenade rounds, a bag filled with unknown types of explosives, three bags of crystalline powder and three large blasting caps.
The cache and IEDs were destroyed by the explosive ordnance team during a controlled detonation.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:13 PM
Staff Sgt. Angela Mckinzie
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs
KHATAD VILLAGE, IRAQ — For many Iraqis, getting treatment for simple illnesses - such as the common cold – has been difficult until now.
Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment “Wolverines,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) of Fort Drum, N.Y., and 3rd Battalion “Mountain Lions,” 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division teamed up April 20 to provide Iraqi local nationals with basic medical care during a medical operation in Khatad Village, Iraq.
“The MEDOP allows us to see a perspective very foreign from the battlefield,” said Maj. Dimitri Cassimatis, 1-89 surgeon and native of Washington, D.C. “We see mothers and fathers bringing in their children – (they are) worried about their health.”
During the medical operation, citizens complained of symptoms ranging from a sore throat to an aching back. However, chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure could not be treated in one day. Since the medical operation was a very basic medical set-up the patients with chronic illnesses were sent to the Civil Military Operations Center where they could receive continual care.
“Today we are treating and giving out medication for common illnesses,” said Sgt. William Bradshaw, a 1-89 military transition team medical trainer and native of Hurst, Texas. “The CMOC is staffed with doctors that can do more for the Iraqis.”
And in other ways the MEDOP provided more for the Iraqis than just basic medical care.
“In addition to providing free medical care it is giving us the opportunity to befriend and earn the trusts of our local national neighbors,” Bradshaw commented.
The MITT operations trainer also elaborated on the indirect effect of providing basic medical care.
“We are building relationships with the local nationals that live within our area of operations,” said Capt. Yoon Choi, a native of Fair Lawn, N.J.
“This MEDOP might have been the swing vote for some of the people treated here on whose side they should be on,” said 1st Lt. Arkan, a native of Baghdad who serves as a personal security detachment platoon leader with 3-4-6 IA.
Regardless of the indirect effect the MEDOP had, medical providers were happy to help the Iraqis.
“Although we are only able to provide basic medical treatment to the local Iraqis, you can tell by the expressions on the people’s faces how grateful they are for any assistance,” said 2nd Lt. Max Smith, a 1-89 platoon leader and native of Grand Haven, Mich.
At the end of the operation Soldiers realized the Iraqis were not too different than the Americans.
“Most Iraqis want what we (the Americans) have - health and comfort for themselves and their families,” Cassimatis added.
The squadron is planning to conduct more MEDOPs in the future in order to continue providing the Iraqis with basic medical care.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:12 PM
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO, Multi-National Division – Center PAO
BAGHDAD – Coalition and Iraqi forces detained extremists, found weapons caches and improvised explosive devices south of Baghdad Thursday.
Soldiers of 4th Brigade “Baghdad Eagles,” 6th Iraqi Army Division and 2nd Brigade Combat Team “Commandos,” 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) of Fort Drum, N.Y., detained the suspected extremists and found the caches during routine combat operations.
U.S. Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, detained two suspected extremists after discovering a weapons cache in the vicinity of the detainees’ house southwest of Radwaniyah.
In the cache was a bayonet, four bandoleers, two cases of 7.62mm ammunition and 26 AK-47 magazines.
Meanwhile soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 4-6 IA discovered a cache consisting of two Katyusha rockets in Mahmudiyah.
Three improvised explosive devices were discovered; two were found by soldiers of 4-4-6 IA near Yusufiyah. The other IED was found by Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT.
The detainees are being held for further questioning.
The contents of the cache were destroyed during a controlled detonation conducted by the explosive ordnance disposal team.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:10 PM
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center PAO
Mahmudiyah, Iraq – A U.S. and Iraqi raid in a Mahmudiyah apartment complex detained eight suspected extremists and discovered three caches containing mortar systems, rockets and ammunition April 22.
Soldiers of 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division and the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, from Fort Drum, N.Y., discovered the caches at about 6:30 p.m. local time.
Coalition forces have found many weapons caches in the Mahmudiyah area, but most rocket and mortar rounds found there have been deteriorated and apparently intended for use in improvised explosive devices.
In contrast, the 60mm and 82mm mortar systems, three 107mm rockets, three 60mm and three 82mm rounds found in the latest cache were nearly new.
Soldiers of the unit examined the weapons, which were stamped with recent dates and Iranian markings.
Also found was bulk ammunition for a PKC machine gun.
The munitions were seized for further investigation.
The detainees were taken into Iraqi Army custody for further questioning
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:10 PM
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center PAO
BAGHDAD — A multifaceted-coalition operation in the Shubayshen area, just south of Baghdad, led to the detentions of almost 50 detainees and a number of cache finds April 21.
Operation Commando Dive incorporated several units’ operations from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., as well as the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division.
Operation Eagle Dive was conducted by the 4/6 IA “Baghdad Eagles” in conjunction with 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd BCT, and netted 33 detainees, mostly suspected of involvement with improvised explosive device manufacture and emplacement.
Caches found during the operation contained two machine guns, two shotguns, six AK-47s, two ski masks, 27 mortar rounds, 280 57mm rockets, four 155mm rockets, nine 12-volt batteries, multiple mortar fuses, three ready-to-emplace IEDs, 500 hand grenades, four 82mm mortar tubes, a large rocket, and six rocket-propelled grenade launcher sights. Additionally, numerous IED-initiation devices and 30 DVDs of Al-Qaeda propaganda were discovered.
Operation Polar Dive, executed by 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, and the 4th Battalion, 4/6 IA, detained three suspected terrorists and found a cache of improvised-explosive device-making materials including wire, black powder, explosives manuals in English and Arabic and chemistry textbooks.
One of the men detained admitted to making over 100 IEDs.
Operation Trident IV, conducted by the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, and 3rd Bn., 4/6 IA, detained six terror suspects and found a small weapons cache containing small arms and ammunition as well as 300 pounds of homemade explosive material and ball bearings for use in IEDs.
Company A, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT, cleared the routes of IEDs, discovering three emplaced explosive devices en route to the objectives.
“This was in an area that has been a safe haven for terrorists,” said Maj. Brian Kerns, operations officer for the 2nd BCT and native of Fairfax, Va.
“The 4/4/6 Iraqi Army has improved their capability to get into these areas … and the operations will definitely disrupt terrorist operations.”
“The terrorists realize that Shubayshen is no longer a safe haven for anti-Iraqi forces,” Kerns added.
The detainees were taken into Iraqi custody for questioning.
The contents of the caches were destroyed in place with controlled detonations.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:07 PM
By Pfc. William Hatton
7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
YUSUFIYAH – Where does man turn to when faced with life-threatening events? Is there a place of solitude in the hardships of combat? After experiencing traumatic moments, where can Soldiers turn to for peace?
When faced with the greatest trials a human can face, Soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, are not only seeking out comfort from their chaplain, their chaplain is seeking out them to provide comfort from the frontlines of battle.
For Capt. Jeff Bryan, battalion chaplain for 4th Bn., 31st Inf. Reg., his duty station at Forward Operating Base Yusufiyah has become less of a home and more of a transitional dwelling as he moves throughout the nearby areas surrounding the FOB. Visiting his troops spread throughout the area and seeing the frontline they fight at every day becomes vital in allowing the faith to go forward.
Each day the work is different, said Bryan, a native of Watertown, N.Y. When he focuses his work around the FOB, Soldiers in the battalion visit him in hopes to seek guidance and gain motivation, he added.
“I spend most of my time going outside and visiting my Soldiers,” Bryan said. “When guys are spread out at numerous locations, it becomes important to visit with them to gain a sense of morale within the unit.”
Going to the places Soldiers go to and riding along on the daily patrols provides an opportunity to build stronger relationships with the Soldiers, Bryan said. When Soldiers see the willingness their chaplain has to visit them in rough and hard environments, it helps to build a deeper trust, he added.
“People have different responses to different situations,” Bryan said. “When a Soldier is traumatized after a firefight, to be able to encourage him becomes important.”
Soldiers go through enough pain and stress each day when they walk around on dangerous streets, Bryan said. With the amount of trouble they face, offering comfort and motivation becomes significant, he added.
“I’m no hero. These guys are the true heroes,” Bryan said. “The guys that sacrifice everything and fight this fight, they are the real heroes.”
As the stress of war continues, finding a sense of faith or a sense of comfort becomes difficult, Bryan said. The fear and stress dealt with causes a change in faith, he added.
“Most Soldiers don’t turn to God when dealing with their troubles,” Bryan said.
When a Soldier does however turn to a higher power for comfort, it brings a better feeling of triumph, Bryan said.
“It leaves me with a better feeling inside,” he added.
As the fight continues, life’s troubling questions might not be answered. Attacks will continue, but as Soldiers from FOB Yusufiyah build a stronger relationship with their chaplain, the fight will go forward with a stronger force.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:07 PM
FORWARD OPERATING BASE YUSUFIYAH, Iraq – Coalition forces hope that Yusufiyah, Iraq, area farmers will see an increase in coming yields following the first of many fertilizer distributions April 20 at a nearby patrol base.
The 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, with the help of 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, currently based here in Yusufiyah, has started to distribute much-needed fertilizer to the first of many tribes.
A contractor brought a dump truck, and five workers from the Abu Amar tribe helped move 300 50-pound bags of fertilizer.
Earlier in March, the battalion brought over 100 tons of fertilizer to FOB Yusufiyah so that it could be distributed to local farmers in time for use for the next harvest.
Capt. Chris Sanchez, civil-military operations coordinator for 4/31, and native of Los Angeles, Calif., was positive about the event.
“This operation will begin the process of the Iraqi army taking the lead in non-lethal operations coordination throughout Yusufiyah,” Sanchez said. “I hope that more tribes will come forward to claim their portion of the fertilizer. The 4/4/6 IA is doing a good job with working with both Sunni and Shia tribes to get this fertilizer distributed to every tribe that wants to come forward.”
It took five workers from the Abu Amar tribe only an hour to get the bags stowed and ready to move, under the watchful eye of an Iraqi soldier who was on hand to ensure that the correct number of bags were distributed accordingly.
The 4/4/6 IA are working with and for the people of Yusufiyah, said Sanchez, and helping the local nationals move forward in their fight against the insurgents.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:04 PM
FOB YUSUFIYAH, Iraq – On a warm Thursday morning, the city of Yusufiyah was bustling with the business of daily life. The aroma of hot chai and falafel floated in the morning air. Children walked to school, merchants displayed their wares and elder residents enjoyed conversation and chai along the Yusufiyah River.
The town’s small café and market were filled with customers who were busy making their purchases for the week. Several months ago the market was nearly closed due to a terrorist truck bomb.
While on patrol, Civil Affairs Team 5 of Company A, 478th Civil Affairs Battalion and Tactical Psychological Operations Team 1481 noticed a change in Yusufiyah. There were signs of progress and employment everywhere.
Several projects have been completed recently. The sewage, water and electricity ministries have been proactively working with the Yusufiyah government to fix the sewer in Yusufiyah, repair the drinking water pipes and replace several transformers. The sewage ministry was able to secure 400 million Iraqi dinar to build a new administration building. The Yusufiyah beladiyah, the council which is responsible for cleaning and maintaining the local roads, recently completed a street cleaning project and has begun to build trash points for the residents of Yusufiyah.
“It is amazing to see the affect of the recent security improvements in Yusufiyah,” said Capt. Chris Sanchez, non-lethal operations coordinator for the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). “People have more confidence being out in public, and the government is becoming functional here. It is good to see that the various ministries are working for the benefit of the residents of the city. The ministries no longer have to work in fear of militia intimidation or terrorist attacks.”
Sanchez, a native of Los Angeles, Calif., has worked extensively with the civil affairs teams to bring stability to the area.
The progress is due to the security that is provided by the 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, the Yusufiyah Iraqi Police and the Soldiers of the 4-31 “Polar Bears,” Sanchez said.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:04 PM
Spc. D. A. Dickinson
28th Public Affairs Detachment
More than 331 Iraqi citizens received medical assistance Wednesday when Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division ran a clinic at a boy’s school in Lutifyah Public Health Center.
Medical personnel from the Brigade Support Battalion and the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, both with 2/10 out of Fort Drum, N.Y., treated local Iraqi’s for a variety of conditions.
The units conduct such medical operations at least four times a month, said Spc. Cecilia Morales, a medic with Company C, Brigade Support Battalion.
“We’re doing pretty well,” Morales said. “Having an Iraqi interpreter helps – they understand what he’s saying. We’ve helped a lot of people.”
“I think it went well,” said 1st Lt. Seth Holland, a physician’s assistant with 2/15 FA. “We are able to provide a service that they can’t get at the public health clinics, which have a limited amount of meds and are experiencing difficulty staffing. With these medical operations we can provide treatment to more people.”
One of the distinguishing characteristics of the clinic was the kind of patients it drew.
“Usually, you get more females and children than males,” said Staff Sgt. Francis Montes-Crawford, a medic with 2/10. “Since this is a boy’s school, more males were comfortable coming in.”
While Soldiers said they felt good about the results of their day’s work, they also expressed a desire to do more.
“I wish we could have a clinic every other day,” Montes-Crawford said.
Not being able to help all of the patients is the biggest frustration medical personnel face, said Montes-Crawford.
“Sometimes, we don’t have enough meds for the whole population,” she explained.
Morales echoed that sentiment.
“The fact that we don’t have long-term medication for these people is a challenge. Some of them need long-term care,” she said.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 1:02 PM
COLONEL GARY KECK (director, Press Office): Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the briefing room again. As most of you know, I'm Colonel Gary Keck, the director of the Press Office. And it's my privilege today to moderate our briefing, which we have with us today Major General Rick Lynch, commander of Multinational Division-Center and the 3rd Infantry Division. You may remember him in his previous role as spokesman for Multinational Forces Iraq, although I want to remind you that he is not here today in any way, shape or form a spokesman for MNF-I; he's here to talk about his division and their efforts. So please show him the courtesy of limiting your questions to what he's specifically responsible for. I'm sure he would appreciate that.
General Lynch and his command took responsibility for ongoing security operations in MND-Center last month.
And with that, I'm going to turn it over to General Lynch for opening comments and an update.
GEN. LYNCH: Hey folks, good morning to you there at the Pentagon. And as the colonel described, I was here in a previous capacity as General Casey's spokesman for the force and as the deputy chief of staff for strategic effects. Now I have the great fortune of being back as a division commander and the commander of Multinational Division-Center.
And I just want to tell you now, like I told you before, thank you for what you do, because your role is so very important as we share this story with the American public. So again, thank you.
As most of you are aware, the 3rd Division Headquarters deployed to Baghdad the third week of March. This is the division's third deployment to Iraq in four years. Of note, about 60 percent of my soldiers in the division headquarters have been to Iraq at least once, many twice, before this particular deployment.
Our return was expected. We were scheduled to arrive this coming summer and replace the 25th Infantry Division in the Headquarters of Multinational Division-North. That had been our focus of planning until February. Our deployment was accelerated as a result of the request for forces that supported the surge of combat forces in a bold campaign to secure Baghdad, the main effort here in Iraq. Within weeks, we refocused and trained for the mission that we now perform.
On the 1st of April, Multinational Division-Center effectively came into existence. The fact that we were able to dynamically refocus our training and planning, deploy here and assume our responsibilities on time for an extremely important sector is a credit to our soldiers, to their families, and to our Army.
I'm very proud of our successes so far, but we have a long way to go.
It's important that you understand our mission. Our mission is inextricably tied to the security of Baghdad. Our goal is to stop the flow of accelerants of violence into Baghdad from the south. Accelerants are, simply stated, the physical components that facilitate violence and perpetuate further instability. We know that these accelerants flow into Baghdad from its exterior, and our job is to stop those flow of accelerants into Baghdad. An important point -- MND-Baghdad, commanded by Major General Fil, is the supported effort. We're focused on blocking the accelerants into Baghdad. We have a supporting role in a very important sector.
Today Task Force Marne consists of three brigade combat teams: the 4th Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division from Fort Richardson, Alaska; the 3rd Brigade from the 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Benning, Georgia; and the 2nd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum. I would note, the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade is attached to Multinational Division West, and is doing a magnificent job with our brothers out in the Al Anbar province.
As you've heard from both the Multinational Corps-Iraq and the Multinational Force Iraq commanders, all the brigades included into the surge will be on the ground here in mid-June, and that's an important point. Task Force Marne will accept my combat aviation brigade from the 3rd Division and my 2nd Brigade from the 3rd Infantry Division here in the May-June timeframe, and they will be established by mid-June, and that will complete the surge of forces into Iraq.
The Multinational Division Center will continue to grow with both our combat aviation brigade and our 2nd Brigade Combat Team over the next 45 days. So by about the 15th -- (audio break) -- we will have the surge forces in sector prepared to work through their missions.
Our forces are arrayed from the southern edge of Baghdad to the border of Saudi Arabia. It features large portions of the Tigris and Euphrates River Valleys, and is rich both in terms of historic and religious significance as well as its economic benefit to the people of Iraq. We anticipate continued development as Provincial Reconstruction Teams and private -- (audio break) -- look to Iraq and its potential.
As part of the surge, as you're well aware, we as a nation also surged these Provincial Reconstruction Teams.
And two of those Provincial Reconstruction Teams that have been surged are embedded in Task Force Marne, and they're making marked improvements in sector already.
Its government is gaining strength, and the people of Iraq are indeed resilient. From Najaf in the south to Mahmudiyah in the north, and from Tak (sp) in the east to Radwaniyah in the west, we see glimmers of hope. Iraqi security forces are indeed becoming more capable, both its army and its police forces, every day. We see farming and the return of manufacturing industry in our sector. We see children playing -- all the elements of a nation gaining in capacity.
I don't want to give you anything less than a realistic appraisal. The -- (audio break) -- great, and the mission is a difficult one. What we owe you is both the good and the bad, and that's what I intend to give you in this particular press engagement.
In our area of operations, we face Iraq's public enemy number one: al Qaeda and al Qaeda-affiliated Sunni extremists. Al Qaeda continues its campaign of hatred, never distinguishing between targets. They wreak havoc and destruction. They desire to achieve what they achieved with the bombing of the golden mosque: to create sectarian violence and plunge this nation into a continuous downward ungovernable spiral.
In MND-Center's battlespace, we also face extremist networks that with their own sectarian agendas are equally counterproductive to the overall goals of the Iraqi people, its security forces and the legitimate government of Iraq.
There is, has been publicly stated clear evidence that these extremists receive support, financing and training from outside of Iraq.
Just this week a bus containing innocent women and children was exploded in the city of Mahmudiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad. Eight were killed, and four were wounded. This act was intolerable, indiscriminate, an affront to all humanity.
What followed was a coordinated effort by Iraqi security forces and U.S. Army soldiers to aid victims, investigate the incident and begin the process to find those responsible for its despicable act.
I got to tell you, as I explained here in Multinational Division- Center in Task Force Marne, the majority of my soldiers have been to Iraq at least once, many on their second and third deployments.
And when you ask the soldiers why they're here, they're here to defeat the terrorists in Iraq so they don't have to fight the terrorists back home. And when incidents like this bus take place -- where eight women were killed, four children were injured -- what they do is they remind themselves that they're fighting over here so that our children and their children can get on a bus back home and not worry about a detonation, an explosion and human carnage.
On April the 8th, coalition and Iraqi army forces responded to a car bombing in Mahmudiyah that killed 17 Iraqis and wounded 26 others. And last week in the same town, Iraqi security forces discovered an abandoned car. The Iraqi army called for assistance from one of our explosive ordnance disposal units, which rendered the would-be car bomb safe. There were no injuries as a result of this joint effort.
In Karbala, the site of the 20th January `07 attack a Provincial Joint Coordination Center that killed five U.S. soldiers; a car bomb detonated last Saturday near the Imam Abbas Mosque – (audio break) -- 55. This was in the vicinity of an earlier attack on a bus stop, an attack that killed 36. In both cases, the Karbala government with which I've recently met has taken the lead to restore security, care for those who are injured and search for the persons responsible for this horrible act.
You know, people tell me, "Hey, Lynch, you just left 10 months ago. What have you seen that's different?" And I got to tell you, in my battle space, in Multinational Division-Center's battle space, what I'm seeing is a marked improvement in the capability of the Iraqi security forces. And let's just use Karbala as an example. When the detonation took place on the 28th of April, there weren't any coalition forces anywhere in the vicinity. We called down the Karbala Iraqi security forces and we said, "Hey, what do you need help with?" And they said, "Nothing. We got it." They handled that situation. It could have been extremely explosive. The second- and third-order consequences of that attack in the vicinity of the mosque could have been horrific, but the Iraqi security forces stabilized the situation.
And they didn't ask for coalition forces. When we asked, they said, "No, we got it." And I got to tell you, that's just a marked improvement from what I saw 10 months ago.
In spite of these brutal attacks in Karbala and Mahmudiyah and the attacks in other towns, we do not see reprisal attacks or sectarian homicides. In fact, in some areas, Sunni and Shi'a live peacefully together. In some towns we see children of both sects attending the same sects (sic), and in some places, they worship together.
Now people ask, "What are indicators of progress? What does right look like over time Iraq?" (Very short audio break) -- those indicators is Shi'a and Sunni living peacefully together. And in my battlespace I see that in some places; like in Yusufiyah just yesterday or the day before, the Mahmudiyah qadha chairman, who's a Shi'a, went out west in the Mahmudiyah qadha to meet with the Sunni populace to see "What can we do to help in your area?" So I'm seeing more and more of that Sunni and Shi'a helpful interaction.
Now, there are clearly still places in MND-Center's battlespace where the Sunni and Shi'a fault lines are sources of friction, and we're working through those.
I think there are signs that the Iraqi citizens are conscious of who's responsible for the violence, and we are hopeful that we will see rejection of reciprocal attacks and ultimately the complete ejection of the extremist networks that perpetuate terror here.
What I have the opportunity to do now with my soldiers is get out and engage with the population. For example, in MND-Center's battlespace, we have 23 sites where coalition forces are living amongst the population. And we have a chance to engage with the population. They're tired of the violence. They're tired of the attacks. And now they're mounting forces to help us and help the Iraqi security forces evict the extremist networks from their country.
And that point about the sectarian violence is very important. You know, in the attack in Karbala, that could have generated major sectarian violence. The Shi'a population in Karbala could have said, "Hey, here is just like the Golden Mosque in 2006. Here is al Qaeda attacking one of our most sacred shrines. Let's retaliate." That didn't happen. That didn't happen. They took control of the situation, and there was no sectarian reprisals that we could ascertain after that.
This entire thing is about the people and the security of the Iraqi people.
Every week, the Iraqi security forces grow stronger. This is the direct result of our joint efforts and, frankly, the time and space that separates Iraqis from the terrorists. Today we have established security posts throughout the area.
You know, I am blessed to partner with two Iraqi army divisions -- the 6th Iraqi Army Division and the 8th Iraqi Army Division. And I got to tell you, those two division commanders are magnificent professionals. They are Iraqi and they're focused on the security of their people. And I have the privilege of dealing with them on a routine basis.
We do conduct joint patrols and this immersion does place our forces at risk. In fact, we have lost several brave young men to enemy action. Since the 1st of April when we controlled our battle space, we have lost 13 soldiers to enemy attacks and we have had 39 soldiers wounded. Most of our casualties have come from improvised explosive devices. That's still the primary threat to our soldiers -- IEDs. And we have an aggressive campaign to counter those IEDs, but they still are taking a toll on our soldiers: 13 killed, 39 soldiers wounded.
What we're finding is that the technology and the financing and the training of the explosively formed penetrators are coming from Iran. The EFPs are killing our soldiers, and we can trace that back to Iran.
A U.S. and Iraqi joint raid in Mahmudiyah uncovered three weapons caches containing mortar systems, rockets and ammunition on the 22nd of April. Recent date stamps and Iranian markings appeared on the ammunition. There is plenty of evidence of Iranian influence in our area, and candidly, this is just simply counterproductive. The discovery of these caches, the interdiction of their trafficking, and the capture of the men responsible for their distribution is our main focus.
We do not expect to eliminate violence, but we can certainly help the Iraqis mend the fabric of their society. Unfortunately, we expect the enemy will break many more hearts in the coming days and weeks. As we have surged, we find the enemy surging as well. We're taking the fight to the enemy to counter his capabilities, but over time, especially as we continue to put our forces in areas in which they have never operated, we can expect continued casualties.
Let me use an example in my battle space. There are indeed areas that we're focused on that we know the enemy is trying to use as a sanctuary, and we're going to take the fight to them.
When these surge units get on the ground, we're going to move to control those sanctuaries, but that's going to come at cost. So everybody has to acknowledge the fact that this is still a very difficult, very dangerous situation that we're working through on a daily basis.
It's important that we highlight the great men and women that we have over here on the front line of the war on terror, and I'd like to take a moment to mention one. Candidly, a concern that I have is, we're not spending enough time collectively as a nation recognizing our heroes and talking about those soldiers that are making such a significant contribution here every day. Let me talk about one.
Master Sergeant Eric Gagne is a recon platoon sergeant assigned to the 2nd Battalion 14th Infantry Regiment with the 2nd Brigade 10th Mountain Division. Sergeant Gagne displayed gallantry during multiple offensive operations in the highly contested Euphrates River Valley tribal lands and Baghdad's Southern Belt. During a mission in early March of 2007, Master Sergeant Gagne and his recon platoon spotted two groups of insurgents engaged in armed combat, and later became engaged by a three-man insurgent machine-gun team.
Master Sergeant Gagne gallantly exposed himself to the withering machine-gun fire, neutralized the enemy position and forced the enemy withdrawal. After capturing the enemy machine gun, he then occupied an abandoned house, overwatching the interrogation and the removal of two semi trucks and trailers suspected of becoming enormous VBIEDs. His undaunted courage in this contested Baghdad Belt has contributed to the success of the Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces.
And I could go on and on and on about the heroes in Multinational Division Center. I told you about our fallen comrades: 13 killed, 39 wounded. I've got to tell you, there are soldiers that are in those patrols when an IED takes place and their buddies are killed or severely wounded. They do the appropriate actions at the point of the explosion; they go back to their bases. And the very next day, they go out on patrol again.
I have yet to see a U.S. soldier, or an Iraqi soldier that matter, falter. They go back out and take the fight to the enemy the very next day. Their courage is just amazing, and I'm privileged to be their commander in Multinational Division Center.
I'll close with a personal expression of gratitude to the families of our young men and women in uniform. When the 3rd Division was accelerated, we as a division said, duty first, boots on the ground. And our soldiers moved to the sound of the guns. They arrived here in good order and engaged in combat operations.
I've got to tell you, the thing that caused me most concern is the families. We've got to continue to reach out to the families, to love them, to tell them that we appreciate their personal sacrifices and take the very best care we can all the time with them. And their morale back home is extremely important. They're magnificent people.
I'll now take your questions.
COL. KECK: Okay, I'll remind you that he cannot see you, so please let him know who you are.
Q General, this is Andrew Gray with Reuters.
You mentioned that as you surge, you see the enemy surging as well. Can you give us any examples of that? Have you seen an increase in attacks in your battlespace? Have you seen an increase in the number of weapons flowing into Baghdad?
GEN. LYNCH: What the enemy has been able to do is, he's been able to establish areas where he have (sic) relatively good freedom of maneuver. He has training sites. He was weapons caches, those kinds of things that he is going to use for violence in Baghdad and the surrounding areas.
So what we've been able to do, with the surge of forces -- and like I explained to you, we don't get the last of those soldiers engaged in combat until the 15th of June -- we can move into those sanctuary areas and take the fight to them. He's not going to give up. He's not going to give those sanctuary areas up without a fight, so there's a fight that's fixing to happen in those sanctuary areas. And he knows that he can continue to work horrific attacks. See, that's the biggest concern. See, when you're fighting al Qaeda, who has no appreciation for human life -- he could care less whether they're killing women or children or innocent civilians, they're going to continue to do these horrific acts of violence to kind of demonstrate their capabilities, and that's what we're seeing.
COL. KECK: Courtney.
Q General, this is Courtney Kube from NBC News. If I could just follow up on that. To say that the enemy is surging is a pretty bold assertion. I mean, can you give us some statistics or something to back that up? Are you seeing an increase in attacks in your area or -- I mean, why specifically would you say they're surging?
GEN. LYNCH: Okay. Courtney, we watch this very close, as we always have, and try to monitor the enemy's capability and our capability to respond, and we're trying to conduct offensive operations over here and taking the fight to him. So every time we take the fight to him, that results in another attack against us. So what you're going to see, as we continue to build forces on the ground and continue to campaign in an offensive manner, you're going to see him respond.
So as I look at attack trends, to answer your specific questions, sure, I see attack trends on the rise, primarily in response to our offensive operations. That's what I'm seeing.
The enemy can't afford for us to create a situation in Iraq where there's stability. We always got to remind ourselves of the end state; the end state in Iraq has always been a representative government that respects the human rights of all Iraqis, that Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists, an Iraq that has domestic security forces that can maintain domestic order and deny Iraq safe haven for terrorists. So the enemy doesn't want that to happen, so he's going to continue to mount offensive operations, but we're going to take the fight back to him. And what I'm seeing in my battlespace is we have the ability -- and we'll have more ability over time to continue to thwart his efforts.
Q General, this is Guy Raz with NPR. You mentioned that your soldiers are fighting the terrorists there in order to avoid fighting them at home. Are you basing that on any independent assessment that you've carried out or that has been carried out by the army?
GEN. LYNCH: I got to tell you, I live to spend time with my soldiers as do all my leaders, so routinely we're talking to them; we're talking to them about professional issues and personal issues. And I got to tell you, of Task Force Marne and those magnificent soldiers I have the opportunity to command in the 3rd Infantry Division, when I talk to the great men and women in uniform under my command, they all say, "Hey, Boss, we got to fight them here because we don't want to fight them there." I don't know about you, but I've got children, I'll soon have grandchildren, and I worry about them not having the same freedoms that we enjoy.
And that's the sense I get from my soldiers as well. You know, I don't get complaints. Even the soldiers here on their third deployment, I don't get complaints because they know it's duty first. What I get is, "Man, I miss my family," just like I miss my family. That's why we've got to work very hard to take care of the families and ensure that they communicate with their soldier, husbands or wives who are deployed. That's most important.
Q General, this is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra. You've mentioned in your opening statement that you have a long way to go. What do you mean by this? Is it a matter of months, of years? Could you give us more details on that?
GEN. LYNCH: Thank you for that question. I mean, what we're working for here is providing the Iraqis a sustainable presence so they can indeed maintain their own security. That's what we're working for. That's why it's so important to continue to mature the Iraqi security forces, continue to provide them training, continue to provide them additional capabilities. It's going to take some time to do that. I mean, candidly, a lot of times we want to rush to a conclusion as a nation and that can't happen over here. This is going to take some time to build that capability.
So where there are no Iraqi security forces or there are Iraqi security forces that aren't properly trained, that's our mission -- to work with the Iraqi security forces, get them into areas where the enemy might consider that a sanctuary and help them with that fight. And that is indeed going to take some time. Now people are always going to say, "Well, how long's that going to take? Can you say three months, can you say five months, can you say a year?" We can't say that, because there are so many variables over here that we're working with.
Remember, we've always said the level of the coalition force is a function of three things. It's a function of the level of the insurgency, it's a function of the capability of the Iraqi security forces, and it's a function of the capacity of the government. So to me, it's all about continuing to build the Iraqi security forces, continuing to take the fight to the enemy, and continuing to build capacity in the government at the national, provincial and local level. And that's just going to take some time.
Q General, it's Al Pessin from Voice of America. You said that every attack that your forces do results in an attack by the enemy. Are the insurgents that strong that they can really match U.S. and Iraqi forces attack for attack? Do you think your surge will be enough to overcome that apparent match in forces?
And in your story about Master Sergeant Gagne (sp), I thought you said that his patrol came upon two groups of insurgents fighting each other. Is that the kind of thing that's happening, or was that an isolated incident?
GEN. LYNCH: No, I mean, in Master Sergeant Gagne (sp), that particular fight wasn't two groups of insurgents fighting each other. But I got to tell you, we're seeing that here in Iraq. We're seeing it in my battlespace.
Candidly, what we have here is a struggle for power and influence, and it's not all about Sunni violence against Shi'as or Shi'a against Sunnis. Sometimes within the respective sects, you see fighting amongst themselves and a struggle for power and influence.
So we do indeed see instances where different extremist groups or different militias are fighting with themselves to establish power and influence. We're seeing indication of that across our battlespace.
Q My other question was about -- is the enemy strong enough to actually match your attacks one for one?
GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, I'm sorry about that. The folks who worked with me the last year all know I'm not smart enough to remember two questions. I just remembered the second question.
These are combat operations that we're doing. The enemy doesn't want to give up ground. The enemy doesn't want to lose his munitions. The enemy doesn't want to lose his control over the population. So he's just not giving up. As we move into an area, he's fighting back.
But day to day with the Iraqi security forces I see progress in that security line. In general terms -- you know, we talk about five lines of operations, security being one of them. In general terms, between the coalition forces and the markedly improved Iraqi security forces I see in MND-Center, I see progress on the security line. Is it going to solve itself overnight? No. Is the enemy going to be able to do acts of violence, horrific acts of violence? Sure he is. But we'll continue to take the fight to him.
Q General, Bill McMichael with Military Times newspapers. You said you have two Provisional Reconstruction Teams in your sector working with your three BCTs. Admiral Fallon said yesterday the goal was to try to match up one PRT for each brigade combat team. Is that going to be happening in your sector?
And can you talk a bit more in detail about precisely how the PRTs are working with the brigade combat teams to try to achieve your goal there?
GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, a great question for that. Thank you for letting me address the PRTs in more detail. You know, we have -- right now I have three brigade combat teams working directly for me; soon I'll have the fourth. And each of those brigade combat teams will have a PRT. Right now, two of those are embedded PRTs, and they are sourced by the State Department and by USAID, and we have bilingual/bicultural advisers helping that brigade commander in his battle space. And in those brigades that don't have an embedded PRT, we've created our own and have a military PRT. But over time, I see other agencies' involvement in those PRTs. And in addition to that, in our battle space we have a large PRT in the Babil province located down at Hillah, and we work with them all the time. And they focus on capacity-building, governance and economic development.
My first blush with these embedded PRTs is they are indeed going to be value-added. I've meet all the team leaders, I've talked to the members of the team, and they came here with a mission, and that is to improve capacity of the government of Iraq at the local and provincial level. And I have great optimism that those things are going to continue to mature and improve.
Q Could you give us a bit more detail about precisely how they're working with your guys? Perhaps you do a clearing operation, these guys sweep in behind? Or is it more of a day-to-day kind of interaction?
GEN. LYNCH: No, it's a day-to-day interaction. The embedded PRTs live with our brigade combat teams. They attend all the sessions with the brigade combat team leadership.
When the embedded PRT travels to meet the local mayor or the qadha mayor, the brigade leadership goes as well. So it's hand-in-glove.
It is indeed folks like me in uniform working with folks in coats and ties for the betterment of the people of Iraq. And that is exactly the direction this needs to go.
So it's still in its early stages. The embedded PRTs that work with Task Force Marne have only been in position for about a week to 10 days, but I got to tell you, I have a sense of optimism that that's going to be a combat multiplier at the local and the provincial level. It's so important. Economic development, capacity building with the government is so very important. Candidly, it's as important, in my mind, as the security line of operation. We're at a point in this campaign where it's about, in my mind, capacity building, governance and economic development, and that's what the PRTs will help us do.
Q General, Jonathan Karl with ABC News. I'm just wondering. You talked about how you see the situation different from your last tour, but how do you see -- what is the most significant in terms of how the coalition is operating differently from your last time over there? Aside from the surge, aside from the numbers, what has significantly changed about the way coalition forces are operating day to day?
GEN. LYNCH: What we have done -- and by golly, I believe it's exactly right -- is we've now moved our soldiers off the large field operating bases into the population, either on combat outposts or patrol bases or joint security sites with the Iraqi security forces. As I say, in my battlespace I have 23 sites where coalition forces are forward deployed. We focus on their security, we focus on their force protection, but they're out there amongst the population, so there's more active patrolling, there's more active engagement with the people in that local area.
And what you find as a result of that is you find this increased perception of security on the part of the local population.
And they say, hey, the coalition forces are here, and they're here all the time. They're not just coming in, doing operations and leaving; they're staying all the time. And most importantly, there are always combined operations with the Iraqi security forces, and that's candidly how we get a lot of intelligence, by the interaction of the population with the Iraqi security forces. So it's all good.
So the biggest change that I've seen -- and, by golly, I believe it's a change for the better -- is the focus on population security and moving our soldiers out to these patrol bases, combat outposts and joint security sites.
COL. KECK: (Off mike) -- time. We are out of time here. And I just want to give you an opportunity to make some final comments.
GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, I thank you for that.
What you all do is so very important, and every opportunity that we have to share with you our views, we will take advantage of that opportunity. And we'll tell you the good things that are happening, and we'll tell you the bad things that are happening, and it's balanced reporting. And all I ask is that we indeed share that information with the American public.
You know, I worry about our families back home. I worry about their morale. We work very hard to tell them the good and the bad; what's happening that's good and where are we struggling so they have an informed opinion. But if all they see is acts of violence, all they see is bombs exploding on TV and the newspapers, then it affects their morale, and I hope that you understand that and can help us work through that. But you'll always find us in Task Force Marne and Multinational Division Center willing to engage with you and tell you our views.
I want to make one point. The work here is important work, but it's going to take some time, and it's going to take some patience. We're going to have good days, and we're going to have some not so good days, but it's just so important, the accomplishment of this mission, because I don't want my kids or my grandkids to be afraid to go to school, go to work, or worship at their place of worship, and that's why we're fighting this fight here.
Thank you for your opportunity. Thank you for your time, and thanks for all you do.
COL. KECK: Thank you again, sir. We hope to hear from you again soon.
Blogged by 2nd BCT Commandos at 12:51 PM