Iraqi, U.S. Soldiers work toward the future
March 4, 2009
COMBAT OUTPOST AL-GHARRAF, Iraq - Combat Outpost al-Gharraf, formerly named Joint Security Station Jenkins, signifies the transition from Coalition to Iraqi control which has swept across the country.
The New Year's Security Agreement pushed the Iraqi Security Forces into the forefront of all operations across the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division's area of responsibility, as well as throughout Iraq.
The brigade covers the Dhi Qar, Maysan and Muthanna provinces. Company A, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, also known as the "Thunder Horse" Battalion, is co-located with the 2nd Battalion, 40th Brigade, 10th Iraqi Army Division's troops here.
COP al-Gharraf is situated between the cities of Ash Shatrah and al-Gharraf, allowing the troops to work with the Iraqi military without disturbing the citizens of nearby Nasiriyah. The ability of Iraqi and American Servicemembers to visit local religious and political leaders enhances their ability to protect the Iraqi citizens.
Thunder Horse Soldiers train both Iraqi military and policemen here, while conducting checkpoint operations and Iraqi government-facility assessments.
"The (outpost) is home to me," said Sgt. Marcus DeAntoni of Belleville, Ill. "Everything is nearby and this base has helped improve our partnership with the Iraqis."
When the 2nd Bn., 12 Cav. Regt. first arrived at the security station, it had two sinks with running water, no showers or air conditioning in the middle of 130-degree summer days. The troops washed their clothes by hand and built observation posts while performing operations with their Iraqi counterparts every day.
"What we have done with limited supplies has shown me that American Soldiers still have what it takes to get the job done, no matter what the mission," said Pfc. Shane Darst , a Thunder Horse Soldier and native of Marengo, Ohio.
The outpost now has climate-controlled rooms, a large screen television, a dining facility that serves one hot meal daily, an internet cafAfA, an improved motor pool, washing machines and dryers, a rifle range and new latrines.
Along with performing daily training with their American counterparts, the IA troopers began to establish better living habits and a deeper sense of pride in their service.
"The language of soldiering is the same," said Lt. Col. Abdullah, the Iraqi battalion commander. "We perform the same tasks whether Iraqi or American, therefore communication is easy."
The Iraqi troops have taught the Thunder Horse Battalion's Soldiers how to better identify criminals, and offered valuable knowledge about the native customs and traditions of the Dhi Qar province.
COP al-Gharraf, was originally named JSS Jenkins by the Thunder Horse Battalion Soldiers in honor of Staff Sgt. Kenneth A. Jenkins, a member of the 4th BCT, 4th Infantry Division. The unit reflagged as the 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div. after Jenkins was killed in Baghdad Aug. 12, 2006.
A picture of Jenkins sits next to the unit's guidon as a constant reminder of the sacrifices some U.S. Soldiers have made while assisting the Iraqi people. The Thunder Horse unit hopes the change in name is a sign of progress in the region.