FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARHORSE, Iraq – The Soldiers of 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, Wash., have seen their share of combat since deploying to Iraq in April. Raids, clearing operations and air assaults are what these combat Soldiers have prepared for and are executing daily in their new area of operation, Diyala province, Iraq.
But the Soldiers of 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment played a different role, Dec. 11, at Forward Operating Base Warhorse during a humanitarian aid mission to assist the citizens of northern Hashmiyat.
“This was the first humanitarian mission my platoon has run,” said Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sekishiro, 2nd Platoon sergeant, Troop C, 2-1 Cav. “We have been doing a lot of missions lately with the Iraqi army and Iraqi Police; not necessarily humanitarian missions, but assisting them in providing their own security in their towns and villages.”
Northern Hashmiyat was recently controlled by al-Qaida. Troop C kept a heavy presence in the area, but since 4th Stryker Brigade’s move into Diyala, the AQI presence in Hashmiyat has been diminishing.
The Concerned Local Citizen programs groups began taking over responsibility of the security in the area. CLC checkpoints arose around the villages.
“We used to provide a heavy presence there,” Sekishiro said. “But the CLCs have been successful at providing their own security for the past month.”
On Dec. 11, 2nd Platoon escorted a convoy of CLC trucks from the village of Hashmiyat back to FOB Warhorse. Once back on Warhorse, the CLC trucks were loaded with 10,000 pounds of rice, 10,000 pounds of flour and 180 litters of cooking oil.
“The CLC checkpoints in northern Hashmiyat will distribute the food to the local villages in the area,” Shekishiro said.
“It’s common for Iraqis to make bread every morning,” said Ali Mustafa Abu Asah, a leader in the CLC organization of Hashmiyat. “The rice will help nourish our people and we will use the oil over the rice.”
Working side by side with the Iraqis helped build relationships, as well.
“We had fun doing it,” said Spc. Christopher Nollenberg of 2nd Platoon. “We taught them a few English words and they taught us a few Iraqi words.”
“Relationships are key when working with the CLCs,” he added. “If we don’t have good relations, they aren’t going to give us information in order for us to do our job.”
“We are very grateful to the coalition forces for this food,” Abu Asah said. “We are trying to work with coalition forces in order to keep our villages and roads secure from al-Qaida.”
Although a change from the daily combat operations, missions like these could prove to be just as fruitful.
“Hopefully, they will see that we are trying to help them, and hopefully they will try to help us,” Nollenberg said. “This is my first HA (humanitarian assistance) drop. It’s a good change of pace. We can’t be out there chasing the bad guys all of the time. Sometimes, we have to help the people in other ways. Hopefully, they will see that we are trying to help them and they will help us catch more bad guys.”
Spc. Randy Stevens, a cavalry scout in 1st Platoon, 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash., patrols through the palm groves of Hibhib, Diyala province, Iraq, Dec. 15, shortly after air assaulting into the area in support of Operation Black Reaper.
Story by Spc. John Crosby
HIBHIB, Iraq – Operation Black Hawk Reaper was a part of several operations that were conducted simultaneously. It was designed to clear an area of three villages, Hibhib, Al Hudayd and Khalis, known as the “Iron Triangle.” The operation included the Concerned Local Citizens program, an Iraqi police emergency reaction force and three companies of Iraqi army working with 2-1 Cavalry, 1-38 Infantry and Special Forces elements. This joint effort was dubbed Raider Reaper. Objectives were to clear the Iron Triangle of AQI presence, weapons caches and improvised explosive devices and leave the Iraqi police and the Concerned Local Citizens program in control of the area.
Helmets fixed with night vision devices roving left and right are silhouetted against the glow of night through the circular windows of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. The high pitched screams of engines are heard over the rhythmic beating of the rotors, vibrating and shaking the helicopter during flight.
A crew member flicks on the soft blue light, and Soldier yells “One Minute!” The Soldiers shift their weight conducting last minute checks of gear, night vision and weapons.
As the helicopter hits the ground the rear door lowers and a Gator tractor vehicle carrying ammunition, food and water tears out ahead, followed by 23 Soldiers of 1st Platoon, Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment and six Iraqi army soldiers. Static electricity glistens on the Chinook’s dual blades as they beat hot wind down onto the Soldiers sprinting from the aircraft.
Within seconds the troops exit the bird and form a large circle, weapons oriented outward, providing 360-degree security. Riflemen take a knee scanning their sectors as machine gunners lay on their stomachs. The Soldiers overwatch the village of Hibhib, Diyala province, Iraq, from the surrounding farmland as the Chinooks take off into the darkness. They are gone as quickly as they landed, dropping their cargo into position and leaving in under a minute. It is H-hour on Landing Zone Grimlock. Operation Black Hawk Reaper has begun.
Cobra Troop takes a 30-second tactical pause after exiting the birds before moving into the village. A squad moves up silently using hand-and-arm signals to communicate while staying in the shadows, using the natural concealment of night to stay undetected.
They find their target house. They have spent hours studying maps, preparing for this moment. They are looking for one man, an alleged al-Qaida weapons smuggler on the unit’s high value target list. The squad moves into position outside the front gate, while the rest of Red Platoon keep their weapons trained on the doors and windows of the house.
The squad, including six Iraqi army soldiers, kicks the gate open. The Soldiers keep their muzzles pointed in each direction as they move to the left, right and straight into the main complex.
“Get on the ground! Hands up!” the Soldiers order.
A family of five women, a man and a 15-year-old boy are pulled out of the house. The women are separated from the men and everyone is searched for weapons and explosives.
The rest of Red Platoon moves in providing additional security. The clearing squad moves out tactically, breaching into the surrounding houses in the small village.
Intelligence received by the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash., led coalition forces to believe that an al-Qaida weapons smuggler was taking refuge in this particular house.
Spc. Randy Stevens, a cavalry scout in Red Plt., Troop C, 2-1 Cav., began tactical questioning the two males of the target house while a thorough search of the home and surrounding yard was conducted.
Upon questioning, the cavalry scout’s suspicions were confirmed. The older male’s name was on the 4th Stryker Brigade’s high value target list.
“We found seven forms of ID in the house,” Stevens said, “Including old Iraqi army I.D. cards, confirming the man’s identity – we know him to be a suspected weapons runner.”
The man is zip-cuffed and detained. With their objective cleared and secured, the Cobra Troop Soldiers were ready to conduct the next phase of their mission. They set up rooftop overwatch security emplacements and provided blocking positions for sister units conducting air assaults in the area.
“The air assault went well,” said Cobra Troop commander Al Bangura. “No hiccups or delays getting off the bird. The junior leaders did their part and led their men well. Everyone is okay and we were successful in securing Hibhib for the rest of the units to complete their missions.”
Operation Black Hawk Reaper was a part of several operations that were conducted simultaneously. It was designed to clear an area of three villages, Hibhib, Al Hudayd and Khalis, known as the “Iron Triangle.” The operation included the Concerned Local Citizens program, an Iraqi police emergency reaction force and three companies of Iraqi army working with 2-1 Cav., 1-38 Inf. and Special Forces elements.
This joint effort was dubbed Raider Reaper. Objectives were to clear the Iron Triangle of AQI presence, weapons caches and improvised explosive devices and leave the Iraqi Police and Concerned Local Citizens in control of the area.
The mission was a success.
Three weapons caches were found containing mortars and mortar tubes of various sizes, suicide vests, anti-tank mines and bomb-making materials. Three possible car bombs were found and destroyed. Several IEDs were found and control-detonated safely.
After securing the Iron Triangle, Soldiers began construction of six checkpoints, giving the Iraqi security forces a foothold in the villages to keep presence and control of the area.
“The citizens are tired of the local militias, al-Qaida and insurgents coming through their town attacking them, shooting at them and kidnapping them,” said Sgt. Jeremy Reynolds, a team leader in 2nd Plt., Troop A, 2-1 Cav. “They set up these checkpoints so they can provide their own security without having to depend on coalition forces and Iraqi security forces.”
Soldiers of Troop A, 2-1 Cav. registered and processed 91 Iraqi volunteers in the area for the Concerned Local Citizens program.
The CLC program allows Iraqis, many with prior military or law enforcement experience, to stand up for their neighborhoods and protect their families and homes from insurgent activity.
“They want to rid their town of these terrorists,” Reynolds said. “It shows that they want to make their city safe and have a sense of independence.”
Arrow Troop also conducted humanitarian aid drops in the area, providing local citizens with 10,000 pounds of rice, 10,000 pounds of flour and 180 litters of cooking oil.
Between the two operations, more than 60 detainees were taken by coalition forces and Iraqi security forces, at least 22 of which were taken by the Iraqi army.
“The IA leaders did well today,” Bangura said. “These guys are very good, very competent and are respectful to the civilians. They weren’t just along for the ride today.”
No casualties were suffered during either operation.
“They performed well,” said Sgt. David Boker, a team leader in 1st Platoon, Cobra Troop, 2-1 Cav. “The mission wasn’t quite as active as some of the other missions 2-1 Cav. has conducted recently, but that puts us in a position to focus on proper security and other areas.”
According to Boker, this mission is one of eight air assaults that 2-1 Cav. has conducted in the last three months to rid the small villages and towns of weapons caches, limit AQI presence and end their operations from the Diyala River straight south into Baghdad.
With the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division’s new home in Forward Operating Base Warhorse, Diyala province can expect more of the same.
Christmas in Baghdad was a special event for Army Private First Class Jason Talbott this year as it included a promotion to Specialist. He was promoted in a Christmas evening ceremony by Gen. David H. Petraeus, commanding general Multi-National Force-Iraq, with the assistance of the Jason’s father Lt. Col. Bret Talbott, USAF. Lt Col Talbott and Specialist Talbott are both deployed to Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq. Specialist Talbott is a Combat Medic attached to General Petraeus’ staff while deployed from Fort Lewis, Washington. Lt Col Talbott attached to the Joint NetOps Control Center, an element of Multi-National Forces Iraq, is deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.
When you are dating a woman the time comes when that unavoidable request comes up: “Hey, I want you to meet my parents.” Usually the look on the man’s face goes from smiling to complete horror — faster than a girl can change her mind about what she is going to wear for a night out. Why are men programmed to be so petrified to meet parents? For a woman, what is the timeline or the significant moment in a relationship that calls for this relationship changing event to occur? I am not a psychologist or anything, but I can tell you from experience and from my friends’ stories why meeting a girlfriend’s parents changes the whole dynamic. Most of my friends say that after they meet the parents they feel that there are accountability and responsibility factors that generally arise from meeting the family. Others have said that when you’re meeting the parents you seem to be under the microscope, knowing that everything you do is going to be repeated back to everyone one else in the family and probably harmonized and quickly judged, analyzed against all of the other swinging harries who have come through the door over the years. If I was to make a television show I would name it “May I Date Your Daughter?”
Being a guy who likes to face adversity and deal with drama head-on, I stepped up to the plate and said to my lady, Alicia, “Hey, I would love to meet your parents.” When I asked her this, I was looking to see if I would get that dreaded look that a guy would give, but I didn’t get it. Instead, she agreed that it would be a great idea. We both acknowledged that our relationship is heading quickly in the right direction. One of my underlining reasons for initiating the introductions was I didn’t want to show up at Christmas and have my personality be a shocker. The one benefit I had going into this mission, which I like to call “Operation Appease,” is that her mom and dad already had an idea of who I was or, better yet, what kind of character I have. They had read the article on the front page of the Seattle Times. In fact, they had it out when I showed up the night I met them. They also watched the news the weekend of the race and heard my stance on things. Her mom said she had read some of my stuff from The Ranger online. Now is it normal for a guy to walk into a house where the folks already have an idea of who you are? Not often, but it was a good thing.
Alicia has dealt exceptionally well with having her man’s life public and in black and white. On different occasions while out people we don’t know have come up and introduced themselves and said they had read The Ranger and my articles for the past 18 months. At first I thought Alicia would be annoyed by it, but she has taken it all in stride. While she often says, “I can’t go anywhere with you without your stalkers/readers coming up to you,” it’s just a joke. She knows how important it is for exposure and communicating with the public for my future outside the Army.
While in Iraq there are certain stresses that affect your daily life, such as getting shot at, getting blown up, or even getting your Stryker stuck in the mud in the middle of an open field. Meeting the parents has its own unpredictability. On the way to the house, we went over the things not to bring up and the topics that might give them the wrong impression of me. If you are an avid reader you know my personality is to be carefree and unrestricted in conversation. But the old saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” weighed heavily on this situation, because I have really devoted myself to this woman and I know our future is pertinent and progressive. So for the occasion I promised her I would be good — and for good reasons.
The night was nothing short of awesome and very beneficial for us. I made sure that before we left that night her parents would have a better feeling about the man their daughter was dating. The night was filled with talking politics and sharing my life stories. They shared with me about their family history and other interesting facts. After the first hour I lost the feeling that I was going into an interview, but rather I was comfortable and felt at home. The dialogue was mostly between her parents and me. Alicia was rather quiet, because she said it was my time for them to get to know me. Alicia’s father is very well-spoken and has great views on things, and her mother is so sweet and warm.
This Christmas was a lot more special being with such a warm family. Being in the Army and seemingly always away during Christmas, I cherish the moments and know that sooner rather than later I will be away for another Christmas. Being in Iraq for last Christmas and conducting missions and going on with our daily life makes this year ever so more important. This week I have looked at pictures from last year’s Christmas — when we played mud football and also met Kid Rock and then later did that cold mission in the city. I will remember those who are over there dealing with being away from their loved ones and facing the everyday dangers. We all should.
This holiday I took in every minute and enjoyed the noises, lights and the comfort of family. Life is so unpredictable and relentless, but once you take a moment to sit back and reflect on your travels, you find yourself realizing that everything you have been through, including all of the stresses you have endured, has gotten you where you are today — overcoming the little things in life, such as meeting your future mother-in-law and father-in-law (yep, you read it right).
The Army released a website where you can search the entire stationing plans including here at Fort Lewis.
Army Launches Troop-Stationing Web Site
BY Elizabeth M. Lorge
WASHINGTON (Army News Service) - The Army has now launched its latest Web site, Grow the Army, to illustrate upcoming troop movements and upcoming unit stationing changes.
The site, www.army.mil/growthearmy, features interactive maps, charts and graphs to show Soldiers and their Families where the Army's new 74,200 Soldiers, six infantry brigade combat teams, eight active-component support brigades, and various-sized combat-support and combat-service-support units will move, grow or activate between fiscal years 2008 and 2013.
"The Army is undergoing the largest transformational change since 1942," said Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Richard Cody at a Pentagon press conference Wednesday. "We've changed our doctrine. We've changed our organizational structure to the Army modular force.
"We've changed the active component and the reserve component, balancing between formations. We've changed modernization and reset programs, and at the same time, under BRAC 2005, we're changing the footprint of our Army to make it more agile, more expeditionary, but also to place our formations and our Family members in camps and stations that have a higher quality of life, a higher quality of training ranges so that we have the right formations so that we are training as we would fight."
States are color-coded and users can click on them to see specific stationing changes. The state of Texas, for example, is scheduled to gain units at both Fort Bliss and Fort Hood because of both 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act decisions and new stationing decisions, so the state will be light green on the Web site's map.
Fort Bliss expects to gain more than 25,000 Soldiers, the 1st Armored Division from Germany, three brigade combat teams, including one from Germany, and a fires brigade. It will be marked on the map by green, dark blue and blue stars to represent "Infantry Brigade Combat Team," "Grow the Army," and "Other Stationing Decisions," respectively.
Fort Hood is scheduled to gain slightly less than 6,000 Soldiers, an air-defense-artillery brigade headquarters and a sustainment brigade. It has a dark blue star on the map for "Grow the Army."
Downloadable fact sheets also describe the changes for each state, as well as installations overseas.
"We were given the concept about two weeks ago but we didn't have the content to work with. As soon as we got the comp approved, the team worked to build out the site - with the functionality where you could click on each state included in the plan. We then worked to build out the fact sheets with the information given" said Shannon Sady, art director for the Army.mil team.