Saturday, December 1, 2007

4-2 Stryker Brigade expands into all of Diyala province

Source: BlackaAnthem Military News.

09 November 2007
Multi-National Division – North PAO
4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division PAO.

BAQOUBA, Iraq – The 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, Wash., is in the process of expanding its area of responsibility to include all of Diyala province, Iraq.

The brigade is taking over the area of operations currently held by 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, which has begun redeploying back to its home station at Fort Hood, Texas. 4-2 will continue to own much of its current battle space, which includes northern Baghdad province and western Diyala province.

>“Because the security situation here (northern Baghdad province) and in Diyala province has improved, we are effectively able to expand our area of influence from Baghdad up through Diyala,” explained Col. Jon Lehr, 4-2 commander.

The Stryker brigade’s new area of operations includes the strategically important city of Baqouba. Al-Qaida in Iraq considers the city of approximately 300,000 as the capitol of the Islamic State of Iraq.

This summer, 4-2 SBCT units supported successful operations to clear AQI from Baqouba, and U.S. officials now estimate that AQI has been degraded by 80 percent in the area.

“Baqouba has so much importance to the enemy, and it is critical that we hold onto Baqouba,” said Command Sgt Maj. John Troxell, 4-2 SBCT’s top noncommissioned officer, during a recon of the city Nov. 5 and 6. “We want to continue to empower Iraqi Security Forces and Concerned Local Citizens so that the threat of AQI and other insurgent groups coming back into this area are very minimal.”

Concerned Local Citizen is the term given by Coalition Forces for local nationals who are providing security in their own areas, including guarding neighborhoods and buildings and manning checkpoints. The U.S.-supported volunteers number more than 67,000 nationwide, according to military officials, and they play a crucial role in providing peace and security throughout 4-2’s expanded area of operations.

“You can’t over stress the importance of CLCs,” Lehr said. The intent is to find groups of people willing to prevent insurgent extremists from attacking local citizens, with the aim of eventually transitioning these men to legitimate institutions within the Iraqi government, turning them into Iraqi Security Forces, both police and Iraqi army. There may be certain individuals that go beyond being able to do that because there is just too much blood on their hands, but I am willing to work with any group that comes forward with true reconciliation on their mind – someone that says I am not resisting the efforts of coalition forces and the government of Iraq to make Iraq a stable, sovereign nation.”

Lehr outlined some of the new challenges that come with expanding into a new area, including increased geographic responsibility, working with Iraqi Security Forces and additional infrastructure rebuilding needs.

“When you think of operating on a piece of ground the size of Maryland, that really paints a good word picture of just the physical difficulties of expanding,” Lehr said.

“Unlike our current AO where we have very little influence over Iraqi Security Forces … we will have an entire Iraqi Army Division that we will have the ability to shape and influence, and that’s a good challenge,” Lehr continued, adding, “The third challenge is the condition of the infrastructure, meaning essential services throughout Diyala province.”

Before Baqouba and the surrounding area was cleared of insurgents this past summer, essential services were relatively austere compared to the neighboring Baghdad province in which 4-2 currently operates.

The brigade is gaining several new enablers to help with those challenges, including the State Department’s Diyala Provincial Reconstruction Team, the 4-2’s Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team and essential services teams.

The brigade is also in the process of fielding new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to replace its up-armored HMMWVs. The MRAP has a V-shaped hull designed to better protect passengers against improvised explosive devices and ballistic threats.

Lehr stressed that the overall strategy of conducting successful counter-insurgency operations will not change with the expanded battle space.

“Being a counterinsurgent is akin to being a police officer and how a police officer conducts community policing,” Lehr said. “This type of fight requires different skills sets beyond tactical and technical. It requires interpersonal and conceptual skill sets, to understand that along with the lethal operations, diplomacy is what we do down to the lowest level. I think our units across the board have done exceptionally well at this.”

The expanded area of operations marks the first time that 4-2 SBCT will be together as a whole unit since before its deployment in April. Two of the brigade’s battalions, 1-38th Infantry Regiment and 2-23rd Infantry Regiment, have been attached to other units, first in Baghdad and now in Diyala.

"When you organize, equip and train as a brigade combat team and then get in combat and get pulled apart, it hurts,” Troxell said, “but when you get it back together, it feels great. I know our Soldiers are great fighters, and as a team we will be successful.”

Photo - Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the top noncommissioned officer of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, Wash., speaks to Soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment Nov. 5 in Baqouba, Iraq . The brigade is in the process of expanding into Diyala province. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Bassett. Digg! Digg!

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