More GNF from Iraq

August 31, 2007

 The Iraqi militay is making big steps forward!  

1st Cavalry News

On Their Own:
Iraqi Air Force Conducts First Mission without U.S. Help

By Spc. Nathan Hoskins
1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs
           

CAMP TAJI, Iraq – The Iraqi Air Force recently flew its first mission without the assistance of its American partners.

Iraqi pilots flew a mission to survey and monitor the power lines in Iraq in a mission appropriately called “Operation Power Line,” Aug. 25, said Brig. Gen. Sati, the commander of the IAF, Taji Wing, who asked to be identified by only his last name.
           “We did our duties today for the very first time and it was a 100-percent Iraqi mission,” he said. Sati announced the mission at a partnership event Aug. 25 between the IAF and 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, in which the American and Iraqi service members enjoyed dinner..
           The mission came about because insurgents have been causing unrest throughout Iraq by cutting power lines, thus cutting off electrical power to the Iraqi people, said Washington Court House, Ohio, native U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan Bartlett, commander of the 770th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron and the Coalition Air Force Transition Team.
           “There’s (a proposed) Iraqi law about people keeping their distance from power lines since there are so many dropped,” said Bartlett.
           The IAF are taking action on this problem by surveying for downed lines and also watching for anyone violating the stand off distance, he said.
           “The mission is to go outside and patrol the Iraqi power lines and to get the word out that the Iraqi Air Force is flying,” said Bartlett.
Sati feels that there are two reasons why the IAF have had this recent success.
           “As I informed my close, dear friend (Col. Dan Shanahan, commander of the 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div.), there are two reasons behind that,” said Sati.
           “Number one, is because (of) the ability of our Iraqi pilots to understand and digest the information and because of their (aviation background),” the Iraqi general said proudly.
           “The second reason is because the continuous day and night help from our American brothers who did everything we asked them for. They didn’t deny us any efforts to accomplish what we wanted,” he said.
           Sati described the moment they completed their first completely Iraqi mission.
           “The whole base is very happy today – extremely happy. We feel like a graduate who just graduated and got his diploma,” he said.
           The progress is obvious when one looks at the numbers, said Bartlett.
           “To put it in context, last year this wing flew a total of 300 hours. Most of those hours were on a couple of these (Bell 206) Jet Rangers,” he said.
           “Last month, they flew 200 hours just in the (Bell UH-1H) Huey II alone. So far they’ve got about 700 hours on the aircraft and they’ve only really been flying them since the end of February, first of March,” said Bartlett.
           Along with keeping a watchful eye over the power lines, the IAF have also moved Soldiers and dignitaries and visitors across Iraq.
           “They are also moving passengers. They’ve moved about 500 passengers so far this year,” said Bartlett.
           Sati and other officers of his command commemorated their victory with their American partners with a static display of their aircraft and then a dinner later that night.
           The IAF pilots and crewmembers set up three helicopters in a hangar and answered any questions the Americans had about them.
U.S. pilots crawled in and out of the IAF helicopters with an Iraqi aviator close by to answer any questions as well as talk about their common bond of flying.
           Afterwards, the mix of Iraqi and U.S. aviators went to the U.S. side of the forward operating base and had a time of fellowship while dining and then smoked a few cigars.
Aviators from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, and the Coalition Air Force Transition Team joined members of the Iraqi Air Force in one of their hangars to get an up close look at the Iraqi helicopters during a static display Aug. 25 at Camp Taji, Iraq. Earlier that same day, the IAF completed its first aerial mission with no assistance from their U.S. partners. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nathan Hoskins, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)Aviators from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, and the Coalition Air Force Transition Team joined members of the Iraqi Air Force in one of their hangars to get an up close look at the Iraqi helicopters during a static display Aug. 25 at Camp Taji, Iraq. Earlier that same day, the IAF completed its first aerial mission with no assistance from their U.S. partners. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nathan Hoskins, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)Reno, Nev., native Lt. Col. Christopher Joslin, commander of the 2nd “Lobo” Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, looks at the inside of an MI-17 helicopter used by the Iraqi Air Force. Soldiers from the 1st ACB got a more personal look at the Iraqi aircraft and talked to their pilots and crewmembers during a static display Aug. 25 at Camp Taji, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nathan Hoskins, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)Reno, Nev., native Lt. Col. Christopher Joslin, commander of the 2nd “Lobo” Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, looks at the inside of an MI-17 helicopter used by the Iraqi Air Force. Soldiers from the 1st ACB got a more personal look at the Iraqi aircraft and talked to their pilots and crewmembers during a static display Aug. 25 at Camp Taji, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nathan Hoskins, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)Naples, Texas, native Amro Ibrahim (center), a translator for the 1st Air Cavalry “Warrior” Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, interprets for Brig. Gen. Sati (right, in green), the commander of the Iraqi Air Force, Taji Wing, as he speaks to the Warrior leadership about the progress of the IAF, during a meeting Aug. 25 at Camp Taji, Iraq. Earlier that same day, members of the IAF completed their first aerial mission with no assistance from their U.S. partners. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nathan Hoskins, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)Naples, Texas, native Amro Ibrahim (center), a translator for the 1st Air Cavalry “Warrior” Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, interprets for Brig. Gen. Sati (right, in green), the commander of the Iraqi Air Force, Taji Wing, as he speaks to the Warrior leadership about the progress of the IAF, during a meeting Aug. 25 at Camp Taji, Iraq. Earlier that same day, members of the IAF completed their first aerial mission with no assistance from their U.S. partners. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nathan Hoskins, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)Traverse City, Mich., native Col. Dan Shanahan, commander of the 1st Air Cavalry “Warrior” Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, sits down for dinner with Brig. Gen. Sati, commander of the Iraqi Air Force, Taji Wing, Aug. 25 at Camp Taji, Iraq. Shanahan said he was excited and very proud of the extensive progress the IAF has made. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nathan Hoskins, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)Traverse City, Mich., native Col. Dan Shanahan, commander of the 1st Air Cavalry “Warrior” Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, sits down for dinner with Brig. Gen. Sati, commander of the Iraqi Air Force, Taji Wing, Aug. 25 at Camp Taji, Iraq. Shanahan said he was excited and very proud of the extensive progress the IAF has made. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nathan Hoskins, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)


Home Front Good News

August 31, 2007

A few weeks ago I shared an email from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison from Texas. Today I would like to add the response I received from our other Texas Senator, John Cornyn. Is it any wonder to you why I love the state of Texas? We are represented very well! I would like to encourage each of you to write to your Representatives and let them know your views and concerns. remember, they are in Washington representing us.

Dear Mrs. J******:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the United States’ policy toward Iraq and about providing funds for our troops serving overseas. I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on these matters.

Liberation from Saddam Hussein’s oppressive rule was Iraq’s first step on the long road to democracy. Although there were real disagreements over how to deal with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, we all agree that a democratic, stable, and prosperous Iraq is in the best interest of its citizens, the region, and the international community. Indeed, the world is safer because this brutal dictator was removed from power.

I fully support funding our troops in a timely manner as they fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I am disappointed that some members of Congress delayed this critical funding for several months. As you may know, President George W. Bush sent a funding request for our troops to Congress in early February. I am pleased that on May 24, 2007, the Senate passed H.R. 2206 and President Bush signed it into law on May 25, 2007. Completion of this emergency supplemental bill is critical for our troops serving on the front lines and for our military facilities here at home. Regardless of political differences, all Americans should be united in support of our brave men and women in uniform. This bill provides funding for new body armor, the construction of improved mine resistant vehicles, and importantly, the resources to train and equip Iraqi soldiers, so that our troops can come home as soon as possible.

I remain deeply concerned about the level of sectarian violence in Iraq. Despite the successful 2005 elections and constitutional referendum, in which large numbers of Iraqis participated, violence between Shiites and Sunnis increased dramatically in 2006—due primarily to the Al Qaeda bombing of a sacred Shiite mosque in Samarra in February 2006. Unfortunately, the nascent Iraqi government has been unable to end this wave of sectarian violence.

It is critical that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqi government work aggressively to broker a political settlement among Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis that ends the violence. Though the United States can help improve Iraq’s short-term security situation with additional military personnel, in the end, it is up to the Iraqis to determine the success of their democracy.

Failure to lay the foundation for a stable Iraq would result in a greater terrorist threat to our nation—especially as Iran seeks to extend its influence in the region and Al Qaeda tries to establish an Islamic caliphate that would serve as a base of terrorist operations. Unfortunately, Iran and Syria continue to pursue policies that undermine stability in Iraq, allowing foreign fighters to cross their borders and providing insurgents with weaponry that has been used to kill American military personnel.

We all want our troops home as soon as possible, but our military strategy in Iraq must be based on clear national security considerations. We owe it to all Americans to establish a strategy for victory, and to support it—with one voice. I look forward to working with President Bush and my congressional colleagues in a bipartisan manner to establish a way forward in Iraq that will lead to a safer world for us all.

I appreciate having the opportunity to represent the interests of Texans in the United States Senate. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

Sincerely,

JOHN CORNYN
United States Senator


Good News Friday 08/31/07

August 31, 2007

There is so much good news pouring out of Iraq, that I have no idea where to start. I considered taking snippets from several stories and making one post with a short piece from each. However, once I began reading each one, I could not take anything away to shorten them. So today I am going to post several Good News Stories. I hope you get a chance to read each one!

Oh… and good news on the Home Front. I went an entire week and did not run into any walls, fall down, the stairs, or impale myself! (well I did drop a knife on my bare foot…. but, it only left a little bruise) I didn’t trip over the dogs, slam my foot in the door, or hammer my thumb. So, all in all it was a VERY GOOD WEEK!

1st Cavalry News

Soldiers help Adhamiyah residents set their neighborhood on the road to recovery

By Sgt. Mike Pryor
2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs    

           BAGHDAD – “How’s business?” is the question on the tip of Capt. Albert Marckwardt’s tongue as he strolls through the main market of the Iraqi capital’s Adhamiyah District.
           The answer, though, is evident all around him. Business in Adhamiyah is booming. The formerly run-down market is bustling. Merchandise spills out of the kiosks and stands, and the street is clogged with shoppers. For Marckwardt, who commands a Troop of Soldiers from the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment responsible for security in the area, it’s an encouraging scene.
            “It’s like in the U.S. when we started to come out of the depression and everyone’s spirits were lifted. We’re starting to hit that kind of recovery period here,” the Columbia, Md., native said. “It’s a night and day difference from when we got here.”

New Beginnings

           Sgt. Bryan Lundquist, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team sergeant who has been based in Adhamiyah since February, compared Adhamiyah at its lowest point to the brutal, civil war-era New York City portrayed in the movie “Gangs of New York.”
           “There was no real authority. It was just the law of the jungle,” Lundquist said.
           Today, while major stumbling blocks remain, recent improvements in the political and economic situation have given U.S. Soldiers like Marckwardt reason to be hopeful about Adhamiyah’s future. The new sense of optimism can be traced back to two major events. The first was the arrival in July of about 500 Soldiers from the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, out of Fort Stewart, Ga., as part of the “surge” of U.S. forces into Baghdad. The 3-7’s arrival instantly quadrupled the number of Soldiers operating in Adhamiyah.
           The additional combat power has enabled Soldiers to maintain a constant presence on the streets, capitalize quickly on information, and mount precision strikes against key leaders of the insurgency, Marckwardt said. In effect, they can now treat the disease, instead of the symptoms.
           “The enemy can’t be comfortable like they have been. They can’t sleep in the same bed every night. They’re on the run,” he said.
           The other major event was an uprising by Adhamiyah residents against terrorists. On Aug. 5, a group of citizens, fed-up with terrorist activity in their community, stormed the Abu Hanifa Mosque – a well known terrorist sanctuary -and expelled the insurgents, beginning a chain of events that led coalition forces to detain more than 50 suspected terrorists and seize five large weapons caches over the next two days.
           “To me, it feels like the community is starting to stand up for itself. They’re fed up,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Grimm, of Cabot, Ark., a squad leader with Troop B.
           Marckwardt said all the progress that U.S. forces have been able to achieve in Adhamiyah over the past few months has been due to the new-found resolve of the people.
           “Our success here would not be possible if the community didn’t want it,” Marckwardt said.

The Domino Effect

            The idea that Adhamiyah is in a resurgent period is not just wishful thinking. There are a number of concrete indicators of progress. In the past month, entrepreneurs opened a new fuel station, providing residents a steady supply of affordable gasoline; Several banks which had been closed re-opened; and a factory making uniforms and other clothes opened and is employing 50 workers, said Kissimmee, Fla., native, Maj. Ike Sallee, the 3-7’s operations officer
            “The gas station on its own may not mean much, but then you have the bank that just opened, and then you have the factory, and all these other things, and that momentum starts rolling. It’s the domino effect,” Sallee said.
            On the security side, the numbers also show dramatic improvement. Total attacks – which include small arms, mortars, rocket propelled grenades, and improvised explosive devices – are down by 70 percent since July 20, said squadron intelligence analyst Sgt. Timothy Luna, of North Olmstead, Ohio. Soldiers from the 3-7 have captured 34 suspected terrorists in addition to the 50 detained after the Abu Hanifa raids.
           More importantly, the people of Adhamiyah have joined in the effort. More than 700 residents have applied to join the Critical Infrastructure Guard Force, a security force of local people with the support of the 3-7 protect schools, hospitals, Mosques, and government buildings. More than 60 have completed the guard force training and will soon receive assignments.
            The unit has also been trying to build on the sense of communal pride by renovating some of the more blighted areas of the city. The unit has funded projects to remove trash and sewage from the streets, beautify a public square, renovate schools, and more. Such projects “rejuvenate” cities, Marckwardt said.
           “You look at cities in the U.S. that are run down, the smallest things can be tipping points in turning them around,” he said. “It’s about bringing pride back into the city.”
            Despite all these successes, Marckwardt said, the insurgents aren’t beaten yet.
            “We’ve got to stay vigilant. If I was the enemy, I’d be thinking, ‘How would I react? What would I do to counter this?’” he said.
           The dangers that still lurk in the area were clear during a patrol with Troop A to distribute humanitarian aid rations in a poor part of the city Aug. 22. As the Soldiers were distributing bags of rice and flour, a huge explosion erupted somewhere close by, shaking the ground. Moments later, the report came in over the radio: IED.
           “Mount up,” said platoon leader 1st Lt. John Gassmann.
           The Soldiers raced off in their humvees, leaving a few lonely bags of rice lying in the street. A few blocks away, another platoon had come within 100 feet of a deadly “deep buried” IED. The bomb had exploded prematurely, leaving a phone booth-sized crater in the road. Gassmann’s Soldiers reacted quickly to set up an outer security cordon around the area and began questioning people. The smiles and laughter that had been evident as the Soldiers handed out food bags were gone, replaced by cool professionalism. Gassmann said being able to adapt to changing circumstances was the key to success in Adhamiyah.
           “We have to always be ready to switch gears,” he said.

Irreversible Momentum

            The end goal of all the 3-7’s efforts in Adhamiyah is to bring progress up to a level where it can’t be undone. Marckwardt calls this point of no return “irreversible momentum,” and said it depends on Iraqis taking the lead.
           “If we do it all for them, the problems will come right back as soon as we leave,” said Roanoke, Va.-native Staff Sgt. William Schilling, of Troop B.
           Adhamiyah has gone through a boom-and-bust cycle before, said Cabot, Ark.-native Staff Sgt. Christopher Grimm. Grimm, who was based in the area two years ago and saw months of progress vanish when his unit turned over security to an Iraqi Army unit that wasn’t ready for the responsibility. He said he worries about the cycle recurring.
           “My biggest fear is history repeating itself,” Grimm said.
           Leaders from the 3-7 are determined to make sure that doesn’t happen. One way is by working with the Iraqi Army to improve their tactical skills and professionalism. The squadron conducts joint patrols with the Iraqi soldiers daily and has begun using embedded Iraqi platoons in some U.S. units. When the Soldiers conduct humanitarian missions for Adhamiyah residents, they make sure the Iraqi soldiers are involved.
           The other way is through the Critical Infrastructure Guard Force. In a process not unlike the reconciliation effort that turned around Anbar province, the 3-7 has capitalized on a groundswell of resentment against terrorists by essentially deputizing community members to fight back.
           “We’ve been telling them to stand up, and they’ve done just that,” Marckwardt said.
           For the new members of the CIGF, it was an opportunity to take a stand.
            “All of the people of Adhamiyah want to join. The terrorists are trying to kill us, kill our families. We want to fight back,” said Ahmed Raja Al Assan, one of the first guards to graduate from the CIGF training course. “We have to work together with the U.S. and the IA to bring safety to Adhamiyah.”
           For Marckwardt, it is that attitude that has him feeling more hopeful than anything else for Adhamiyah’s future. Back at the market, he stopped to talk to the owners of a small appliance store. They thanked him for the improvements in security that had turned the market around.
           “No, no, thank you,” Marckwardt replied. “It’s you guys that are doing all this.”

Columbia, Md., native, Capt. Albert Marckwardt, commander of Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, talks with a shop owner in the main market of Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighborhood during an engagement patrol Aug. 22. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)

Columbia, Md., native, Capt. Albert Marckwardt, commander of Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, talks with a shop owner in the main market of Baghdad’s Adhamiyah neighborhood during an engagement patrol Aug. 22. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)

Cincinnatti native, Sgt. Daniel Hood, a medic with Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, patrols through the main market of Baghdad’s Adhamiyah neighborhood Aug. 22. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)

Eastman, Ga., native, Staff Sgt. Edrese Johnson of Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, hands out some candy to a little girl while on patrol in a section of Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighborhood Aug. 22. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)

Eastman, Ga., native, Staff Sgt. Edrese Johnson of Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, hands out some candy to a little girl while on patrol in a section of Baghdad’s Adhamiyah neighborhood Aug. 22. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)


The Adoption…

August 29, 2007

I am not sure if all parents are as dorky as me. I would like to think that there might be a couple of you who come in a close second. No, you don’t have to admit anything.

Actually, I did not even realize I was such a dork until I spent time with teenagers. They kept whispering, “Is she for real?”

And I would whisper back, “No, this is all an act. In my real life I am a ballerina.”

And they would look at me with deep concern etched on their cute little faces.

Anyway, being the giant dork, that I am, I have adopted another Soldier. I can’t help myself. They are like cute little puppies out playing by the road. Their puppy dog eyes are just asking me to bring them home…

OK, so maybe my Soldier did not ask to be brought home, she may not have even asked to be adopted… But, she is so darn cute and so darn sweet, that I could not resist. I might mention that she is also so darn full of fire that she does not let many people get away with calling her sweet and cute….

My dear wonderful husband gave me strict instructions… NO MORE ADOPTIONS! I had to explain that I had to have just one more! I have never had a daughter… and… and… (she won’t eat much and she is house broke!)

hehehe… He gave in and I now have the fabulous Ms Morgan to brag about as well as my own L’il Trooper…

I might mention that they both are fans of Robert Jordan… See they could be related!


Wednesday Hero

August 29, 2007

This Weeks Post Was Suggested By Randy Thorsvig

Ken Leonard

Ken Leonard (On The Right)
From High Point, North Carolina

Every once in a while you run across one of those “feel good stories”. Those stories that show us just what a person can do when they really want it bad enough. And Ken Leonard has one of those stories.

In 2005, Ken Leonard left his job as a police officer in High Point, North Carolina to go to Iraq to work with a private security firm. In December of that year, Ken, along with five other men in his vehicle and six others in the vehicle behind him, was hit by a roadside bomb outside of Baghdad. “After the bomb went off, I knew exactly what had happened,” Leonard recalled. “My feet got jarred, so I knew they were hit.” While others in his vehicle were injured, he had received the worst of it. He had lost both his feet.

The vehicle behind them pushed Leonard’s to a safer area. But flames were coming out of the air conditioning vents and they had to get out. Leonard crawled from the car and fell to the pavement. “That’s when I saw my feet,” he said. “I could tell they were gone. They were still attached, but they were shredded.”

On July 19, 2007, Ken Leonard went back to North Carolina to get his job back with the police force. To do that he needed to pass the Police Officers Physical Abilities Test, which, among other things, consisted of a 200-yard run to be finished in under 7 minutes, 20 seconds. And he did just that with 24 seconds to spare.

“Somebody told me one time they said, ‘You know, what you’ve lost is just bone and muscle. You’ve still got heart, and you’ve still got, you know, what’s up here,'” Leonard said, pointing to his head.

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. To find out more about Wednesday Hero, you can go here.


You are in our Prayers

August 28, 2007

I wanted to take a few moments to ask you to add my favorite Marine to your prayers as she prepares for another ‘journey.’

Hugs SJ… we all wuv you a great deal!


Building Trust

August 28, 2007

1st Cavalry News

Soldiers come bearing food & supplies for visits with Adhamiyah residents

By Sgt. Mike Pryor
2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs   
 

            BAGHDAD – Other than the fact that he is heavily armed, dressed in body armor, and flanked by several Soldiers, 1st Lt. John Gassmann shows up at Ahmad Ali’s doorstep just like any friendly new neighbor. He even brought a gift.

            “We’re just going through the neighborhood introducing ourselves, seeing if there are any problems, and seeing if there’s anything we can do to help,” Gassmann tells Ali conversationally, as his Soldiers carry bags of rice, flour, and beans into the house.

Riley, Kan., native 1st Lt. John Gassmann, a platoon leader with Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, gives his contact information to a resident of Baghdad's Adhamiyah District after dropping off a bag of humanitarian assistance foodstuffs during a patrol Aug. 21. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)
Riley, Kan., native 1st Lt. John Gassmann, a platoon leader with Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, gives his contact information to a resident of Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District after dropping off a bag of humanitarian assistance foodstuffs during a patrol Aug. 21. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)

            Gassman’s unit, Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, is responsible for security in a poor section of Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District. For the Soldiers in Gassman’s platoon, that means earning the trust and confidence of the local people through daily engagement patrols. 

             “The bottom line is, we can drive through this neighborhood three times a day for a year, but if we don’t stop to talk to anyone, we’ll never know anything about it,” Gassmann said.

            So, instead of cruising the streets in an armored humvee, the Riley, Kan., native spends most of his time inside residents’ living rooms, sipping tea and talking. Lately, Gassmann’s platoon has also been handing out humanitarian aid bags containing rice, salt, cooking oil, and other common foodstuffs at each house they visit.

            The bags are a lifeline for some of the poorer families in the area, but they’re also a gesture of goodwill on the part of the Soldiers. Having armed men show up on your doorstep unannounced – regardless of the reason – can be a little stressful, Gassmann said, so the aid bags are one way the Soldiers can show they mean no harm.

            “It puts them a little more at ease and lets them know we’re here to help,” he said.

            The platoon handed out around 50 of the bags during a joint patrol Aug. 21.
Norfolk, Va., native Spc. Shannon Guinn (left), and Hickory, N.C., native Sgt. Shawn Hatley, of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, carry bags of humanitarian assistance foodstuffs into a house in a poor neighborhood in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District during a patrol Aug. 21. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)
Norfolk, Va., native Spc. Shannon Guinn (left), and Hickory, N.C., native Sgt. Shawn Hatley, of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, carry bags of humanitarian assistance foodstuffs into a house in a poor neighborhood in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District during a patrol Aug. 21. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)

            At house after house, the routine was the same. The Soldiers conducted a quick search, then brought the food in as Gassmann sat down with the owners to discuss any concerns they might have. The conversations always ended with Gassmann offering them a card with his contact information. 

             “If you ever need anything just give me a call,” Gassmann told one family. “We’ll help you in any way that we can.”

            The point, he said, wasn’t necessarily to leave each house with specific information about insurgents. It was to lay the groundwork for a relationship that might pay off in the future.

            “What we’re really trying to do is build a trust between us and the people in the area,” Gassmann said.    

Norfolk, Va., native Spc. Shannon Guinn (left) of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, and an Iraqi Army soldier prepare to hand out bags of humanitarian assistance foodstuffs to kids in a poor neighborhood in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District during a patrol Aug. 21. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)

Norfolk, Va., native Spc. Shannon Guinn (left) of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, and an Iraqi Army soldier prepare to hand out bags of humanitarian assistance foodstuffs to kids in a poor neighborhood in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District during a patrol Aug. 21. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)