Army's top enlisted in Iraq visits last of surge Soldiers
August 26, 2009
HABUR GATE, Iraq - Multi-National Force - Iraq Command Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Wilson visited Soldiers of the 16th Sustainment Brigade, one of the last units in Iraq serving a 15-month deployment, Aug. 12 and 13.
The 16th Sust. Bde., a Bamberg, Germany-based unit, is responsible for logistics operations in northern Iraq. The unit arrived in Kuwait July of 2008, just 12 days before the Aug. 1, 2008, deadline that ended 15-month deployments.
Wilson, escorted by the 16th's Command Sgt. Maj. James E. Spencer, first visited Soldiers at Contingency Operating Location Q-West Aug. 12, where he toured some of the base's new facilities, including the combat stress center, convoy support center, dental clinic and education center.
Wilson and Spencer then convoyed to Habur Gate to speak with the unit's Logistics Task Force - A,16th Special Troops Battalion.
The small group of Soldiers at Habur Gate maintain one of a handful of points of entry into Iraq. Habur Gate is a convoy staging facility on the Turkish border near the Iraqi town of Zahko. It is the second busiest point of entry into Iraq and a hub for goods coming into the country from Turkey.
Wilson spoke with LTF - A Soldiers and leaders about the difficulties associated with long deployments, including suicides and assaults, and the importance of Soldier care and leadership engagement.
"We have all kinds of things going on in the Army because someone didn't want to intervene," Wilson said.
Wilson said long deployments can be difficult for Soldiers, so it is important for non-commissioned officers to stay engaged in their lives.
"Why am I telling you all this'" Wilson asked. "Because I was once a private. I was once a sergeant. Every time you talk to a warrior, always go back and evaluate what you said."
Wilson said it is OK for leaders to apologize to Soldiers if they are wrong or too harsh.
"The problem is that many leaders can't do that," Wilson said. "They think that it is a sign of weakness. Only egomaniacs look at themselves as being weak."
Wilson stressed the importance of putting Soldiers first.
"I'm where I'm at because of you," Wilson said. "If you lead with your heart you'll always be right."
This was the second trip for Wilson to Q-West and Habur Gate to visit the Soldiers of the 16th Sust. Bde.
"It's just reinforcement to him, as the senior enlisted advisor in Iraq, that we are staying engaged with our Soldiers and are continuing our mission," said Spencer. "The visit allows him to get a true picture of the status of our Soldiers and assess any changes in the operational environment."
While he was in the area, Wilson also visited with the deputy mayor of Zahko, Dr. Basil. Basil is also the mayor of Dahuk, a nearby community.
The two discussed the construction of Zahko Emergency Hospital. The $2.9 million facility, a Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq project, is slated for completion in October.
According to information from the GRD, the project was initiated because many residents in Zahko cannot afford health care nor have access to it, and many existing facilities need renovation.
Wilson and Basil also discussed long-term relations in the largely Kurdish area.
"Our request is that (the U.S. Army) remains partners and friends," said Basil, through a translator.
Wilson also said he hoped to continue the great relationship the Army has with communities in northern Iraq.
"We hope that with the Strategic Framework Agreement, a long-term global strategic partnership with Iraq, that we'll have that relationship for a long time," Wilson said.