1st Cavalry Division Takes on Baghdad Responsibility
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Apr. 15, 2004 Task Force Baghdad, made up mostly of the 1st Cavalry Division, has assumed responsibility for Baghdad and its environs from the 1st Armored Division.
Maj. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey handed over the responsibility to Maj. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli in a "no-fuss, no-muss" manner. "We weren't going to have a ceremony for this," said Army Lt. Col. Jim Hutton, the public affairs officer for Task Force Baghdad. "Our people have more important things to do."
News reports indicate that at least portions of the 1st Armored Division, which has its headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany, will remain in Iraq as part of the combat force plus-up that Army Gen. John Abizaid, U.S. Central Command commander, requested.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers visited the headquarters of Task Force Baghdad as part of a visit to Iraq. The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has stopped at Tallil and visited with Italian members of the coalition, and at Hillah, where he visited with the Polish commander of the Multinational Division Central. He is meeting here with Combined Joint Task Force 7's commander, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, and Coalition Provisional Authority administrator Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III.
The transition of authority to the 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas, was a long process. The Army identified the division as the replacement last year. Planning went into high gear. CJTF 7 officials did not want to lose the experience that the 1st Armored Division had painfully built up in a year in Baghdad.
Officials from the 1st Cavalry Division visited their counterparts in Baghdad, and 1st Armored Division personnel began sending information to Fort Hood. The cavalry division went through training at Fort Hood, the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and the Joint National Training Center at Fort Polk, La., before deploying.
The Fort Hood unit also began getting raw data from Baghdad and running its own analyses. They then matched their conclusions with those of the 1st Armored Division people in Iraq.
The 1st Cavalry Division's initial party deployed in January. Key staff people met with their counterparts, and the initial party laid the foundation for follow-on groups. They began a "left-seat/right-seat" training regimen. Under this program, 1st Cavalry Division people observed 1st Armored Division people doing their jobs. They would then switch; the 1st Cavalry person would do the job and the 1st Armored Division person would critique the soldier's performance. "This went right down to the squad level," Hutton said. "It was enormously important."
But the 1st Cavalry Division did not just duplicate what the 1st Armored Division did. For example, the cavalry unit is not based at the Baghdad airport, as the armored division was. "Eventually, the airport will revert to the Iraqi people, and they will need the space," Hutton said. "Plus, here force protection is a bit easier."
Hutton said the division can still get to trouble spots quickly from its new location.
The big shoulder patch of the 1st Cav is now apparent at military checkpoints through the city, and, unfortunately, the division has already lost people seven soldiers died and 51 were wounded in an attack April 4.
Division officials said the 1st Cav faces a small number of enemies but a threat that is constantly evolving. They said the division faces former regime elements, foreign fighters and illegal militias of all stripes. The main focus of concern is the Thawura area also known as Sadr City. "Our job is to keep the area safe, and we are doing that," Hutton said. "We can still go on any street we want to go on. We can go anywhere we want to go. No government building is occupied by enemy forces, nor will they be."