By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
Soldiers from Fort Hood's two divisions are accustomed to operations in the Baghdad, Iraq, area. For the last several rotations, the 4th Infantry and 1st Cavalry Divisions have taken each other's place as head of Multinational Division-Baghdad.
The divisions' units also are accustomed to deploying together, but that changed at the end of last year when the 4th Infantry headed out for its third rotation. The Special Troops Battalion, which included the division headquarters, left Fort Hood with its Fort Carson, Colo.-based 3rd Brigade Combat Team last year. The 1st Brigade Combat Team soon followed and plans were announced for the 4th Brigade Combat Team to leave in the summer.
But that wasn't to happen before three brigades were rearranged in three separate divisions. The 4th Infantry's 4th Brigade, led by Col. Philip Battaglia, became a 1st Cavalry brigade in March. The 1st Cavalry's 4th Brigade, based out of Fort Bliss, reflagged under another division and the 4th Infantry's 4th Brigade moved its colors to Fort Carson.
Little changed for the soldiers of each unit besides the names and flags. Deployment plans for Battaglia's brigade continued and the soldiers rolled out of Fort Hood in June. The brigade would go without the rest of its division, which returned to Fort Hood and Fort Bliss by February.
Battaglia and his soldiers embarked on what the colonel called last week an "extremely exciting mission" in the southern part of Iraq around Tallil.
It's an area that up until this point hadn't seen much of an American presence, and the 4th Brigade troopers were the first Fort Hood soldiers to operate there.
International forces occupied the area, Battaglia said during a phone interview from Iraq, and their mission was to escort convoys coming into Iraq from Kuwait. It's an area that Battaglia had only passed through as a "tourist," on his way to Baghdad in 2003 with the 4th Infantry. But it wouldn't be convoy escorts for the 4th Brigade. The mission "totally changed," Battaglia said, and now it was all about owning and operating the battlespace in three provinces and increasing the competency of the Iraqi division, three provincial police organizations and the Iraqi border patrol.
The area differed from what commanders and soldiers were used to in Baghdad. The citizens are mostly Shiia and the political alliances were quite different, Battaglia said. It isn't as violent as Baghdad, either, he added.
Still, the area is critical, Battaglia said. There are oil fields to the south in Basra and quite a bit of border with Iran.
Since his last deployment to Iraq, the situation has improved drastically, Battaglia said, due in part to the progress of the Iraqi security forces.
"I'm very optimistic about where the country of Iraq is going," he said.
The brigade and its three provincial reconstruction team partners are co-located at Camp Adder. The brigade's Iraqi partner, the 10th Iraqi Army Division, is headquartered nearby.
Camp Adder is a huge base with lots of units and an Air Force element, Battaglia said. The 4th Brigade soldiers who live on the base live in air-conditioned trailers and have access to a gym. They get three hot meals a day and plans are to open a second dining facility there next week, Battaglia said.
The 4th Brigade is the main combat element on the base and its soldiers are spread out on combat outposts and other bases in the area. Officials are looking to create a joint security station with Iraq soldiers and police, Battaglia said.
Conditions at those locations are very austere, "but we are improving those," Battaglia said. Soldiers now live in tents and subsist largely on MREs. The tents have wooden floors and air conditioners are being installed. Despite the variance in living conditions, most of the soldiers have access to telephones and Internet so they can contact loved ones, Battaglia said. The brigade has put communications systems in place at even the most remote outposts so soldiers have that capability.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at email@example.com or (254) 501-7547.