Sunday, March 23, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 23 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, Soldiers Continue Work to Maintain Security Gains in East Mosul.

MOSUL — Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, are working the latest phase of the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) by living among Iraqi citizens at Combat Outpost Knight in eastern Mosul, and gaining their trust by constant patrolling and interaction.

“We conduct atmospherics gathering, talk to the local populace and see what their needs are, what their security level is,” said 1st Lt. Larry Gwinn, of Richmond, W. Va., a platoon leader with Delta Company, 1- 8 Inf. Regt. “We are working toward the next phase of operations where we bring projects into the local community and help legitimize the local government.”

Gwinn also stated that sanitation workers had already been hired through the local government and were making a difference in the community. In addition, he noted several other contracts were in the bidding process for community improvements.

“It’s about hearts and minds. We check and see how many schools are around, doctors, retired Iraqi Army, people that want to help us help them,” added Spc. Jamel Staton of Brooklyn, N.Y., also assigned to Delta Co., 1-8 Inf. Regt.

This requires frequent patrols that originate from COP Knight. The COP is a small fortified base that allows Soldiers to stay close to the surrounding neighborhoods and act as a quick response force for citizens if needed.

The 1-8 Inf. Regt. Soldiers, based out of Fort Carson, Colo., rotate into COP Knight every four days. While at the COP, Soldiers complete required duties that ensure the functionality and security of the COP.

The rhythm of COP life goes on relentlessly for the Soldiers as they move from patrols to the COP and back to patrols. The cycle only breaks on the end of the fourth day when they return to Forward Operating Base Marez, the main Coalition base in Mosul.

A return to the FOB does not mean a break from missions for the Soldiers from 1-8 Inf. Regt. It merely changes their location for a different but still busy schedule. The fight against AQI does not take four-day breaks, or any time off, for that matter.

“We pull PMCS (Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services) on all our vehicles; tanks, MRAPs and Humvees, get those fueled up and greased down, order parts if we need to.” said Staton. “We also run missions from FOB Marez, usually just into a different sector.”

Staton added that he and his fellow platoon members could accomplish whatever was required, regardless of the condition or mission, “We are always going to make do … we are Soldiers first and foremost.”