Airborne Cavalry Soldiers Stay Vigilant in Iraqi Suburbs
By Army Pvt. Jared N. Gehmann
Special to American Forces Press Service
MADAIN REGION, Iraq, Aug. 20, 2009 Undeveloped areas and vast farmlands are some of the key characteristics that make up the southeastern areas outside the Iraqi capital, where Multinational Division Baghdad paratroopers operate.
Army Staff Sgt. Richard Grimsley greets an Iraqi girl during a checkpoint in the Madain region outside eastern Baghdad, Aug. 19, 2009. Grimsley is a squad leader with the 82nd Airborne Division’s Troop A, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Jared Gehmann
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
For the paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s Troop A, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, these scenes are a far cry from the heart of Baghdad's Rusafa district, where they operated just a few months ago.
From patrolling the tight, bullet-riddled alleyways and the congested streets of Rusafa to now operating in rural villages here, the surroundings are a huge change for the soldiers of Troop A. But they’ve adapted to the change in scenery quickly. They moved from inside Baghdad to the rural Joint Security Station Salie a month before the June 30 deadline for U.S. combat forces to leave urban areas. But despite the move, the paratroopers’ mission remains the same.
"Out here in the suburbs, it is a completely different environment,” said Army 1st Lt. Kyle Turner of Jacksonville, Fla., a platoon leader assigned to Troop A. “It's a huge transition from an urban area to the rural area. Even though we are no longer in the city, we still stay alert and prepare for the worst on each mission.
“Just because we haven't seen any combat action in a while doesn't mean that we should ever be any less prepared. After all, we are still in a war zone."
Although the rural environment is less intense then the streets of Baghdad, many dangers still exist, Turner said, and he and his team watch anything out of the ordinary.
On one recent morning, the paratroopers worked alongside Iraqi federal police conducting a traffic control point to crack down on the movement of munitions and explosives throughout the region. The police manned the control points while the cavalry troopers pulled guard duty in the surrounding area and oversaw the operation.
Many Troop A soldiers are thrilled to see their Iraqi counterparts having a larger role in the execution of daily missions.
"It's nice to have the [Iraqi security forces] doing a lot of the work," said Army Spc. Matthew Santonastaso of Fitchburg, Mass., a combat medic assigned to Troop A. "At first, we did most of the work, but it seems like the Iraqi soldiers and police are really learning to run things."
The paratroopers also have noticed that the local residents are much more receptive to their presence.
"Out here we feel much more wanted," Turner said. "Now the kids wave at us, and always want to try talking to us. The adults seem much friendlier and less afraid as well," he said.
The day's mission went without any significant actions, but regardless of the location, the mission will stay the same.
"As long as we can stop the supply of weapons and explosives into Baghdad, Iraq will be a safer place," Turner said.
(Army Pvt. Jared N. Gehmann serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team.)