U.S. patrol base renaming ceremony in Samarra honors sacrifice, productive future
July 3, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq - Amid the sounds of a ceremonial final roll call in tribute to Staff Sgt. Todd Olson, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division changed the name of Patrol Base Olson to Fond'k Albo Hera, June 30.
The patrol base was named in honor of Olson, from Loyal, Wis., who died of wounds sustained during an attack in Samarra in Dec. 2006.
"We have won this war because of men like Staff Sgt. Todd Olson and the efforts and sacrifices of all of our Iraqi brethren in attendance today," said Lt. Col. Samuel Whitehurst, the battalion commander, addressing a crowd of local government officials, U.S. military and Iraqi Security Force leaders and provincial government officials.
"Today we are witnessing a transition that does not divide us, but further unifies us in our combined vision to protect and serve the Iraqi people and specifically the people of Samarra," he added. This ceremony is recognition of a new mission for the battalion, said Whitehurst. The battalion is now focused on reconstruction and support to local government, not combat operations in the city.
Samarra plays a vibrant economic and cultural role in Salah ad-Din province, as it is home to the al-Askari (Golden Dome) Mosque.
The patrol base was previously a hotel that supported the tourists who visit the city. The new name of the patrol base means the Lake Hotel in Arabic.
"This facility represents the tourist potential for the city of Samarra. Our desire is to return this asset back to the city. To do this, we first must reduce our presence here and turn it back over to the Government of Iraq," said Maj. Kareem Montague, the battalion executive officer.
The ceremony demonstrated the success of combined security efforts between Iraqi and Coalition forces over the years in Samarra.
"The efforts over the last six years prepared Iraq for this day to come," said Montague.
"There had to be a stabilization and improvement of the security situation in Iraq, a continued development of local, regional and national government as well as strengthening of the Iraqi Security forces. All these events had to be in place for today to happen," he continued.
Soldiers of the battalion viewed the ceremony as a testament to the people of the province that the combined efforts of Iraqi Security and Coalition forces are working to create a better Iraq.
"This is definitely a stepping stone for Coalition forces and Iraqi locals showing that we are working together to build confidence, respect and trust amongst each other for the betterment of Samarra," said Sgt. 1st Class Omar Mosley, a platoon sergeant in the battalion.