Tuesday, July 24, 2007
JSS Arcala & JSS Eagle Base
For this deployment we have a company of tankers attached to us from our sister battalion, 2-7 Infantry. The Soldiers of Charlie Company who manned COP Falcon in the city, now secure the main supply route (MSR Mobile) that runs through our area of operations (AO). Considering the size of our AO, that's quite a task. Their mission is to assist Iraqi police in maintaining security along the MSR, especially at check points that are built-up with barricades. The primary threat is VBIEDs (Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devises) or cars/trucks carrying bombs, whose drivers are prepared to kill themselves. Although this can be a boring and monotonous task, these Soldiers understand that insurgents would love nothing more than to drive such a vehicle up to a busy market place, a police recruiting site, or a meeting between local and coalition leaders.
Working with the Iraqi police and ensuring they follow procedures and standards can be frustrating. As our societies are vastly different, it is not uncommon to hear reports that Iraqi police manning check points along the MSR resort to bribery and extortion while conducting the duties. Of course, this is tolerated by neither coalition nor Iraqi Security Force leaders--but it is an indication that old habits can resurface.
During my visit with these Soldiers last week, we conducted a non-denominational worship service. I was particularly impressed that everyone who was not on guard at the time chose to attend. As is sometimes my custom at the start of a field service, we went around the circle and each person shared where he is from and his denomination. It's always interesting to see the diversity and breadth. Three Soldiers identified themselves as either non-religious or agnostic, but seemed genuinely interested in observing. We had a meaningful conversation afterwards. At the conclusion of the service, I delivered a few gifts. Included was an Xbox 360 donated by Father Barkemeyer's charity back in Chicago: Compadres. I also delivered pairs of ballistic sun glasses and flashlights donated by generous individuals back home.
A mission similar to that carried out by Soldiers at JSS Arcala is carried out by their fellow tankers at JSS Eagle Base. I was able to pay a brief visit to these Soldiers while traveling with LTC Silverman, CSM Sumner and their personal security detail the other day. I visited with Specialists Daniel and Darby--pictured here. SPC Darby is older than most of his peers. His buddies have pinned up an old action photo of a Soldier in Vietnam and then pasted Darby's face over the top--"that's how old he is!"