Tuesday, May 22, 2007

IA soldiers’ boots touch ground in terrorist safe haven

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.”

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