Vanguard Soldiers help keep air base safe
Sergeant Joel Williams, with Company B, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, searches an inoperative Russian-made aircraft Jan. 14 after his fellow Soldiers spotted an individual loitering around it near Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.

AL ASAD, Iraq-"Remember to stay alert. Stay vigilant," said 1st Lt. Matthew McCarthy, after a brief explanation of the day's mission. "It's starting to pick up around here."

After belting out a loud "Hooah," acknowledging the mission's requirements, Soldiers with Company B, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, donned their personal protective equipment, loaded into their vehicles and set out for their patrol.

But this patrol was unlike those with previous combat experience in Iraq were familiar with. Nonetheless, these infantrymen still play a major role in protecting the lives of thousands of tenants on Al Asad Air Base.

"Our main focus is stability operations, ensuring that servicemembers, civilians and Iraqi Security Forces in and around Al Asad are secure as they operate and train on a daily basis," said Sgt. 1st Class Cody Stowe, a platoon sergeant with Company B.

Sergeant First Class Stowe explained that his troops, and Soldiers with Company C, 3rd Bn. 7th Inf. Regt., conduct patrols around Al Asad Air Base to help prevent any criminal activity.

Moments after the infantrymen started their patrol Jan. 14, one of the troops spotted an individual loitering around one of the inoperative Russian-made aircraft outside the base.

"We've got an individual to your 9 o'clock," said Spc. Christopher Seltreck, as he radioed in the activity to his fellow Soldiers.

The suspect fled as soon as he was noticed.

"He's probably just another guy trying to make a buck," Sgt. 1st Class Stowe said, explaining that members of the local populace have been taking parts of the aircraft to sell as scrap metal in their community. "But we never can be sure, so we try to approach the suspected individuals and ask them what they are up to."

Sergeant First Class Stowe said his team recently discovered fresh holes in the ground where individuals have dug up wires. He and his Soldiers dismounted their vehicles in search of any fresh activity.

"Anything significant that we find, we report," Sgt. 1st Class Stowe said. "We're here to protect ourselves and enable the Iraqi Security Forces as they conduct their training. They deserve the ability to train in a safe environment so they can be fully prepared to take over the mission when we withdraw from Iraq."

With no new findings, the Soldiers continued on their previously planned route until shift change. They searched through vacant bunkers and other surrounding areas and talked with Iraqi Army soldiers who stand guard at checkpoints outside the forward operating base.

Specialist Jason Burdette, with Company B, 3rd Bn., 7th Inf. Regt. and an Iva, S.C., native, said although this mission greatly differs from his last deployment, he is still proud to have a hand in Operation New Dawn.

"I love it," he said about the day's patrol. "It makes me feel like I'm doing something great for my country. It's great to be able to come out here and see the improvements from the last deployment."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16