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U.S. Soldiers Share July 4 Celebration with Iraqi Army Partners

By Army Pfc. Lyndsey Dransfield
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP TAJI, Iraq, July 6, 2008 – Although soldiers here didn't have a traditional Independence Day celebration, they made the most of the time they had celebrating with new friends -- soldiers of the Iraq Army -- during a series of athletic competitions to commemorate America's Independence Day.

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U.S. soldiers from 3rd Platoon Company B, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Multi-National Division-Baghdad, help their teammates climb a wall during the one-mile steeple chase. The soldiers competed in the Borzoi Squad Competition at Joint Security Station Sheik Amir, northwest of Baghdad, to celebrate Independence Day July 4, 2008.
  

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U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Farina, B Company commander, organized, hosted and participated in the Borzoi Squad Competition for soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Multi-National Division-Baghdad, at Joint Security Station Sheik Amir, northwest of Baghdad, July 4, 2008.

"Competition is always a good thing," said Farina. 'It builds camaraderie within our company, giving the soldiers bragging rights as well as an opportunity to hang out with their friends.”

The competition consisted of eight events: bench press, pull-ups, tire flip, bouldering, a one mile steeple chase, sprint relay, and basketball and volleyball tournaments.

Each platoon in the company participated and competed against one another. Adding a twist to the competition, Iraqi Army soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 31st Brigade, 8th Iraqi Army Infantry Division, were invited to partake in the events.

"Every day we get to see how they (the Iraqi Army) live, but rarely do they get to see how we live. By sharing the wealth of competition, we are developing something in common other then our work," said Spc. Scott Geiszler, an infantry team leader with 3rd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment.

Many of the competitions were unfamiliar to the Iraqi Army soldiers and their culture, but that didn't discourage them from putting forth their full effort and support.

The U.S. soldiers put a lot of time into supporting and training the Iraqi Army soldiers, Farina said.

"I think that it is a good thing for my soldiers to see the Iraqi Army out here supporting us," he said, adding that the Iraqi Army and MND-B soldiers thoroughly enjoyed the shared experience.

Watching the two coalition forces participate in friendly competition together is not only a good example of how far they have come in building positive relationships with the people of Iraq but is also a prime example of the safety and security that has been established, he added.

"I've spent more than one (Independence Day) in this country, and this is the first time we have been able to do this," said Farina. "It really shows the faith that we have in the (Sons of Iraq) program and also the amount of security that they are able to do essentially by themselves"

After a long day competition in the hot sun, Headquarters Platoon took the lead and earned the grand prize: bragging rights and a plaque to hang in their platoon area.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. soldiers from Headquarters Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment , 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, take off for the one-mile steeple chase while competing in the Borzoi Squad Competition at Joint Security Station Sheik Amir, northwest of Baghdad, in celebration of Independence Day July 4, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Lyndsey Dransfield   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageIraqi Army soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 31st Brigade, 8th Infantry Division, compete against U.S. Weapons Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment , 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, in a volleyball tournament during the Borzoi Squad Competition at Joint Security Station Sheik Amir, northwest of Baghdad, July 4, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Lyndsey R. Dransfield  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAn Iraqi Army soldier from 2nd Battalion, 31st Brigade, 8th Infantry Division, reads the scoreboard during the Borzoi Squad Competition at Joint Security Station Sheik Amir, northwest of Baghdad, July 4, 2008. Iraqi Army soldiers participated in the competition against U.S. soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment , 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Multi-National Division – Baghdad. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Lyndsey R. Dransfield  
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