Walking With Warriors
April 30, 2009
BAGHDAD - At Joint Security Station Hor al-Bosh, the day for Company C, 1st Battalion, 112th Infantry, begins around a briefing board mounted on a wall. Soldiers gather around as they receive the day's mission; again reminded of the threats that they could face.
"We brief them on the mission, making sure everyone knows what task they will perform and the purpose for performing it," said Staff Sgt. Bert Finland, from St. Mary's, Pa. "We cover the risks we face and if any of those risks become reality, the actions we will take."
It's a ritual that the Soldiers have ingrained in themselves after more than three months in Iraq. Each Soldier is called on to brief something; ; indicators of an improvised explosive device, actions on identifying a threat, and evacuation of wounded. All of them repeat the steps as if they were second nature.
"We have been fortunate here" said Capt. Nicholas Buchheit, of State College, Pa., commander of "Cobra Company." "We haven't had much in the way of direct action with the enemy and I think that's because we are out there interacting with the people every day."
Buchheit said the unit has conducted approximately 300 joint patrols with Iraqi Security Forces to include about 20 joint cache clearances since they arrived in February.
"The Soldiers have been working hard every day," said Buchheit. "We recently uncovered a cache that included 219 different pieces of explosives."
Many of the soldiers attribute their success to the dismounted patrol where they leave their Stryker vehicles and simply walk.
"One of the things that benefits our company is the fact that we are continuously dismounted," said Finland. "You get better results on the ground; you gather more human intelligence, you get to interact with the Iraqi Security Forces and offer them mentorship and guidance and it just puts us in the communities."
The Soldiers of Cobra Company walk their beat in different environments from the Taji Market; busy and bustling with people, activity and buildings, to the town of Zorba; with cows, sheep and open farm fields.
In both environments, Staff Sgt. Steven Jones, from Bradford Pa., has the soldiers investigate anything suspicious, talk to people, and meet with Iraqi Security Forces as they come to their checkpoints.
"We find that some places are very friendly," said Jones. "Then there are some places that they aren't so friendly. It all depends on the area."
In the city, the children take the time to challenge Jones to a soccer match. In the county, farmers wave from their porch and the Solders respond in kind.
"I served in Iraq before and it's kind of nice to come back and see the fruits of your labor," said Sgt. Mike Gallo, of Pittsburgh. "In some ways people are doing better, in others they need more work. It's just good to walk the streets and see that they are working to better themselves."