Efforts of Anbar Coordination Cell support overall USD-C West mission
November 10, 2010
CAMP RAMADI, Iraq-The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq during Operation New Dawn is to train, advise and assist Iraqi forces to help create a more stable, secure and sovereign Iraq. To accomplish this, the effective partnership between U.S. and Iraqi forces must be maintained-but that can't happen by itself.
The Anbar Coordination Cell at Camp Ramadi, Iraq, supports that effort by facilitating key engagements between Brig. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, United States Division -
Center deputy commanding general-west, and Iraqi military leaders. In turn, this builds effective civil capacity to precipitate the development of Iraqi Security Forces and the political self-reliance of the Anbar provincial government.
"We see ourselves as an extension of the division staff," said Capt. John Ortegon, executive officer Anbar coordination cell.
The ACC is comprised of staff officers from USD-C headquarters out of Camp Liberty in Baghdad. However, the ACC is different from a division or brigade element, and it took some time to define each member's role.
It was on-the-job training, Ortegon said.
"As we went through an initial mission analysis, the question was, 'how do we best support Brig. Gen. Tovo','" he said.
One of the ways that the cell supports Tovo is to provide security during his engagements with Iraqi leaders.
Staff Sgt. James McKeehan, a veteran of four Iraq deployments and one of the personal security detachment noncommissioned officers responsible for providing security for Tovo, said he notices a big difference in the current environment.
"My first deployment was the ground war," he said. "The object was to engage the enemy. Now Iraq's own security forces have the lead. Theoretically, I don't have to worry about combat."
Regardless, he said, protecting the general is no small task.
"It's a big responsibility, making sure he gets from point A to point B," McKeehan said. "But a lot of the time, it means we get to go to a lot of cool places."
Another responsibility of the cell is to coordinate air and ground movements for Tovo.
Sgt. 1st Class John E. Santoro, operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the ACC said during his predeployment training, he knew he would be processing movement requests while in Iraq, but didn't know he would be a part of the ACC until he arrived in country.
The coordination of air and ground transportation, security and support highlight some of the diverse responsibilities and capabilities of the ACC; the cumulative effect of which ultimately enables the success of Tovo's engagements with ISF senior leadership, paramount sheiks in Anbar, the provincial council and governor.
"Everyone brings something to the table," Ortegon said. "We need to be able to work outside our (military occupational specialites)."
A big part of the cell's effort is relationship building with key leaders and subordinate and adjacent units. This is important because subordinate units are not required to report to the ACC.
"Getting communication going between Special Operations Task Force - West, the Provincial Reconstruction Team - Anbar and the (4th) Advise and Assist Brigade, (3rd Infantry Division, USD-C) was critical," Ortegon said.
The cell has also had great success in using the Commander's Emergency Relief Program to help fund PRT civil capacity building efforts, he said.
The fact that the ACC did not train together as a unit before deployment fostered an environment of cooperation and communication early on. When the deployment began, only a few staff officers were identified, but the mission has grown over the course of the deployment.
"We tried to solve problems as they arose," Ortegon said.
One such problem was getting Tovo the intelligence support he needed in Anbar.
Staff Sgt. Bradley Carlson, the intelligence analyst for the ACC, said he had no idea he would end up in Anbar, even though he was the Sunni intelligence expert at USD-C. "I was hoping I'd have a chance to visit, but I never thought I'd be working here."
Yet, a few months after working at USD-C, he was asked to move to Camp Ramadi to support the ACC.
"I am (Brig.) Gen. Tovo's intelligence adviser, so my primary mission is to provide him with all the current intelligence data," he said. "Part of that also is helping get him (prepared) for key leader engagements."
Carlson said he didn't have access to all the intelligence systems he had when he worked at USD-C headquarters. Instead, he relies on communicating and information sharing with the ACC staff.
Carlson said communication is very important in a closed environment such as the one in which the ACC operates. However, that's the benefit of working in the cell-it is an example of the effective collaboration of a division staff's diverse and capable elements.