By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
The last time Lt. Col. Christopher M. Coglianese left Fort Hood for Iraq, he was leading a 44-person advance team. It was September 2006 and the 1st Cavalry Division was relieving the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq.
During that deployment, Coglianese served as the division's battle major and then as the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment's operations officer.
The daily violence in Baghdad was "simply staggering" and only seemed to get worse, Coglianese said of the environment then. Things began to change when Gen. David Petraeus took over and surge forces flowed into the country.
"We retook the initiative across the country, and especially in Baghdad, the focal point of Iraq," Coglianese said. "Back then, you expected to get into an enemy contact every third or fourth patrol.
Now, while there are still acts of fatal violence, the likelihood has significantly diminished."
There are days when no significant violence occurs and often there are only two or three a day in Baghdad, he added. Coglianese remembered more violent times when he would go on a patrol where soldiers would encounter two or three roadside bombs, and days when there were more than 100 incidents a day in Baghdad.
That led to deliberate movement through certain neighborhoods. Now soldiers can travel on main roads and with traffic.
"In my previous tour, the biggest threat was (roadside bombs) and small-arms attacks," Coglianese said. "Now, it is getting stuck in traffic. That is a good problem to have."
When the history of the Iraq war is written, the 2007 campaign known as Operation Fard al Qanoon, or "Enforce the Law," will be seen as the decisive event of the war following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, Coglianese said.
It's a time that author and journalist Tom Ricks called "The Gamble" in his book, "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq." There were no guarantees but the troops were relentless and the Iraqis were willing to act, Coglianese said.
"The cost was very high," he said. "(The 4th Infantry Division) did a fantastic job taking forward our hard fought efforts to the next level. We owe them the same effort and skill. If they had not done so, the violence, chaos and societal anarchy could have very easily returned to pre-autumn 2007 levels."
The professional competence of the Iraqi Security Forces has significantly increased and they are the critical unifying force for a country historically split along sectarian lines, the lieutenant colonel said.
"We have given them the time to get better," Coglianese said. "I believe our entire effort has to be and is focused on this end."
Coglianese, the son of a Vietnam veteran, was promoted to lieutenant colonel March 1 in Baghdad. His family and some close friends were able to watch via video teleconference.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7547.
Name: Lt. Col. Christopher M. Coglianese
Birthdate/place: May 19, 1970, Elizabeth, N.J.
Occupation: Executive officer, 1st Cavalry Division's Special Troops Battalion and Multinational Division-Baghdad.
Family: Wife of 10 incredible years this July, Anne. Five kids, ages almost 8 to 3: Rebecca, born in New York; Victoria, Virginia; Kathleen and Christopher, Jr., twins in Bombay, India; and Joseph, Texas.
Favorite movie: "The Godfather." Cinematically beautiful. Flawless acting. Perfectly directed. A story really, at its core, about family. It is so much more than about the Mob.
Favorite book: I am partial to "A Man for all Seasons," actually a play, by Robert Bolt. I often wonder if I have the moral courage and character of Thomas More. I am currently reading "The Warriors" by Sol Yurick, the basis for the 1979 movie, a modern retelling of the "Anabasis" by Xenophon and am planning to start "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" Junot Diaz fairly soon. Junot and I worked together in a mall job in high school. I also tend to read everything I can on all aspects of strategy and military affairs.
Favorite quote: "The nation that will insist upon drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking done by cowards." Sir William Francis Butler, soldier of the British Empire