"Dragons" move to Taji, prepare for tough mission
August 31, 2009
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Versatility is vital to the ultimate success of any organization. On today's modern battlefield a unit's versatility is more valuable than any weapon.
Troops of 1st "Dragon" Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division once again proved their versatility that makes them one of the most trusted and respected artillery units in today's Army.
The post June 30 phase of the Security Agreement has forced the "Dragons" to switch gears and assume a more complicated role within the region. The battalion recently moved its headquarters from Combat Outpost Cashe South, located south of Baghdad, to Camp Taji, to the north of Baghdad. In doing so, they accepted an increase in their operating area; from the roughly 50 square kilometers they patrolled in the Mada'in Region, to nearly 350 square kilometers in the Taji area.
Dragon Soldiers will also provide for three separate artillery fire support installations to support the Iraqi Security Forces in the region. This will assist in disrupting enemy communication abilities in the area, which will in turn enable the protection of the citizens and the growth of Iraqi civil capacity.
In addition, Soldiers from the battalion will provide maneuver support from Camp Taji and Joint Security Station Sheik Amir by working hand-in-hand with local Iraqi Army troops. The unit's mission is to improve security within the region, while at the same time nurturing further economic and political growth for the populace.
The battalion plans to not only continue progress within Taji, but to provide training, mentorship, and support for the Iraqi Army and the local government.
"Letting the Iraqi Army make the decision for their operations and only providing over watch to make sure they are doing it correctly is key," explained Thomson, Ga. native, Capt. Sydney Wilson, the assistant operations officer assigned the 1st "Dragon" Bn. "Also, through grants we plan to help improve and create jobs for the local populace in efforts to revitalize the economy."
The process of gaining the trust of the people is through maintaining face to face contact and letting them know that the "Dragons" are in the area to support the Government of Iraq and Iraqi Security Forces, added Wilson.
"We will be spread thin, but if anyone can be successful in this mission it's the 'Dragons'," expressed battalion commander, Lt. Col. Eric Schwegler, a native of Ozark, Ala., to his Soldiers as they prepared to assume the mission. "The next one hundred days will be some of the most fast paced, important, and critical days for us. We will continue to foster progress and change for the people of Iraq and maintain the standard that we live by as 'Dragons.'"
While in the Mada'in region the unit's battle space included a dominant Shi'ite residency, whereas in the surrounding area of Taji the troops will now interact with a Sunni majority. Balancing the responsibility of not only providing artillery support but also executing daily patrols, while at the same time adjusting to a new region with a new culture would seem to pose a compounding set of obstacles for the "Dragons".
Fortunately, during the unit's 15-month rotation, they conducted countless missions and patrols within the Taji area, building trust and familiarity with the local population.
With the mixture of maneuvering and artillery capabilities, the Dragon troops will be a versatile force capable of supporting U.S. and Iraqi forces alike.
The knowledge of the area and experience that the "Dragons" have of the Taji area provides the battalion extra tools for success.
"It's good to be coming back to Camp Taji," explained Pago Pago, American Samoa native, Sgt. Liuneta Ioane, a human resources sergeant assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Bn., 82nd FA Regt., who is now on his third tour with the battalion. "We built many strong relationships with people in the area during our last rotation so it's good to see the progress the region has made. We can only help continue to cultivate change for the people of Taji."
The Soldiers will maintain the "Can and Will" legacy that the battalion is famous for through their complex mission.
"We are being called for the tough mission," added Schwegler. "There will be good days and there will be bad days. I am sure that we will be successful in our mission and will help the Iraqi people during this historical period of transition."