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Tuesday, 22 November 2011 09:30

‘Red Dragons’ Leave Lasting Impression at Kauffman

Written by Sgt. Quentin Johnson

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – Samarra, a city located in Northern Iraq, is a little more than 100 km north of Baghdad. Home to the Al Askari "Golden" Mosque, the Spiral Minaret and other historical landmarks, it’s considered one of the most holy cities in Iraq.

Additionally located within the city is the Samarra Operations Command, Samarra Joint Coordination Center, elements of the Iraqi police, Iraqi federal police and the Mayor of Samarra, Mahmood Khalaf Ahmed.

Soldiers from Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Advise and Assist) “Black Jack”, 1st Cavalry Division, transitioned Contingency Operating Site Kaufman as part of Operation New Dawn, in Samarra, Oct. 21. This was the 6th base transitioned by Black Jack since their arrival in May 2011.  Kauffman, a site that housed U.S. soldiers for more than seven years, is located within the SJCC. Various units stationed there provided a vast array of strategic and operational support to the city.

Samarra was once a Sunni insurgent stronghold and had been the center of civil unrest for more than a decade until 2004 when U.S. soldiers and the Iraqi army conducted a large offensive and secured the city. Elements of the 1st Infantry Division then provided support to Samarra with reconstruction assessments and force protection efforts.

U.S. Forces maintained an enduring presence in Samarra and trained the Iraqi Security Forces on force protection. Improved ISF-led security allowed for political reform within the city.

“We are just here if the ISF need help, they are running the show,” said Capt. Ryan Wiley, commander of Company B, 3-69 Armor, 3rd Inf. Div., in a 2005 interview about the security of the polling sites in Samarra.

In addition to force protection, reconstruction was a major priority for the war-torn city. Rebuilding became essential after the 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque. The mosque was left in pieces after insurgents infiltrated the building and planted two bombs within it. The event sparked demonstrations and backlash towards the Government of Iraq from the Shiite community. They called for justice and a rebuilding of the community.

The 2nd Bn., 35th Inf. Regt., 25th Inf. Div. along with the 490th Civil Affairs Bn. distributed $2.5 million in grants to approximately 900 store owners in August 2006, which helped rebuild businesses and restore the economy within Samarra, according to a 2006 story from the office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs.

U.S. Forces continued to rotate units out of the compound within Samarra while partnerships with the ISF became stronger. Soldiers from the 3rd BCT, 25th Inf. Div. completed a turnover of the SJCC to the ISF, January 2009.

With the USF and ISF having worked cohesively for the last two years, Battery B, 3rd Bn., 82nd FA Regt., assumed the final command of the COS, early June 2011, said Capt. Jason Williams, commander of Battery B.

After their arrival, Battery B began coordinating and working with the ISF to secure Samarra, the surrounding towns and Samarra Bypass, said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Schuerger, platoon sergeant with Battery B.

Schuerger said their mission was unique. In addition to their normal force protection operations and training, Battery B’s successes derived heavily from the outcomes of multiple key leader engagements with local leaders.

Members of the Black Jack’s Stability Transition Team supported most of the KLEs conducted by Battery B leadership with Iraqi leaders in Samarra.

“Capt. Williams and I mutually reinforce each other. I brought him to almost all the KLEs I went to and I went to a lot of the ones he had, mostly for situational awareness,” explained Lt. Col. Christopher Coglianese the 2/1 CAV’s (AAB) STT leader.

Bringing Coglianese on these types of joint engagements enhanced Battery B’s credibility when dealing with high-ranking Iraqi officials, said Coglianese.

“The Iraqi military is very rank conscience, so when they see a lieutenant colonel come to the meeting, that brings a certain element of respect,” he added. “The Iraqi leaders knew Battery B’s leadership took the meetings very seriously,”

Most of the joint patrols conducted with the ISF were dismounted and usually centered on VIP visits within the city, stated Schuerger.

Battery B played host to many high-profile visitors such as members of the State Department, GOI officials and USF commanding generals, showing them the progress and transformation of Samarra as well as the highlights of the city itself, said Williams who hails from San Antonio, Texas.

“We had general officers and people from the State Department arrive and tour the city,” explained Williams. “This gave our guys an opportunity to escort them, show them Samarra and its progress since [Battery B] arrived, and since the attack on the Golden Mosque in 2006.”

Williams said even with his unit dedicated to KLEs, force protection and joint patrols, Battery B dedicated time to train the ISF.

Battery B soldiers provided training that was tailored to fit the ISF’s specific operational needs and expand their knowledge on crime scene investigations, stated Williams.

“We advised, assisted, trained and equipped the ISF throughout our time there,” said Williams. “We focused instruction on new techniques in search methods and forensic sciences.”

“The purpose for the training was to enable the ISF to respond to crimes in their areas of operation with the knowledge to protect themselves and the Iraqi public while properly collecting evidence,” said Billy Canaan, then Battery B’s civilian police advisor, in a July 2011 interview.

Battery B conducted training until a month before they left and with each passing month the ISF continued to make great strides in their effectiveness as an operational force in Samarra, said Williams.

As the soldiers of Battery B drove away from the compound, they were proud to have served along side the ISF at the SJCC, he added.

Additionally, Mayor Khalaf and other local leaders have seen great improvements in the redevelopment of the city’s infrastructure, and the city itself is now more secure.

November 22, 2011: Written by Sgt. Quentin Johnson, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade Public Affairs, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division-North

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Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 16:00
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