By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Fort Hood Herald
Coalition forces will not determine democracy in Iraq’s Diyala province, its people will, Col. David Sutherland said Sept. 18 from Iraq.
Sutherland commands the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team. Most of the division’s units are located in Baghdad, but the 3rd Brigade’s area of operations spans Diyala province, which is northeast of Baghdad, and parts of southern Salah ad Din. The territory the brigade controls is about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, according to information from the unit. Diyala’s capital city is Baqubah.
Missions by a joint force of American and Iraqi troops have been successful in reducing violence by 40 percent since July 1, and Sutherland said that has resulted in the citizens’ support. That support is the key to success, he said.
In the past three months, forces have conducted three major missions at the brigade level. The most recent being Operation Lightning Hammer 2. Since the brigade deployed to the area in November, troops have conducted more than 230 battalion- to brigade-level offense operations, Sutherland said.
“You would be in absolute awe if you saw the American military in action over here,” Sutherland said.
Among the brigade’s successes, 44 suspected or actual al-Qaida members have been detained or killed, 15 weapons caches have been destroyed, three vehicle-born bombs meant for markets were found and 38 roadside bombs were pointed out by the province’s citizens.
Most of the violence the soldiers encounter now is systemic response to their operations, Sutherland said. The troop surge benefited the area and allowed forces to dominate and secure the population.
While the mission evolves constantly, leaders are still focused on helping the local governments establish services and security to its people. Tasks change, but not the mission, Sutherland said.
Iraqi people want the same thing as Americans, he added.
“They have the same hopes, dreams and desires as we do,” he said. They want to prosper, but without peace and stability, they can’t do that, he added.
The brigade is composed of more than 5,000 soldiers, which include its six battalions and troops from the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment; 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment; Army Reserves and National Guard. It also operates jointly with members of the U.S. Navy and Air Force, and is a combined force with soldiers from Uganda who provide force protection, according to information from the brigade.
The soldiers are spread out over forward operating bases to austere patrol bases. Soldier from the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment live on patrol bases in Baqubah and some of them have not spent more than 30 days on a forward operating base in their 10 months there, Sutherland said.
Though some of these places can be remote or austere, the colonel said the soldiers are fearless and “take it to the enemy every day.”
Leaders are doing what they can to make sure morale stays high among the brigade’s soldiers. The troops have access to a coffee bar and a Pizza Hut recently opened in the area. Sutherland said soldiers’ morale is extremely high and the tangible results of that can be measured in the brigade’s re-enlistment numbers, whose goals have continued to be met.
“These are typical Cav soldiers,” Sutherland said. “If you ain’t Cav, you ain’t …”
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