CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - The commanding general of Multi-National Division Center greeted troops and met with a local sheik at Patrol Base Warrior's Keep Dec. 26.
Meeting in a small, makeshift courtyard between the front of the main building of the patrol base and T-walls protecting the building, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch presented Sheik Kehri with a photo book entitled "Building a New Iraq Together." The book highlights positive relationships between Coalition Forces and Iraqis. Lynch and Sheik Kehri discussed local concerns and future projects including the establishment of an Iraqi Police station in the area.
The CG's visit gave some troops the opportunity to speak about life at this patrol base located 12 miles southwest of Baghdad in the rural village of Sadr al Yusifiyah. Since October the tenant has been Company D, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The base was previously under the control of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).
Spc. Rodney Warchuck, a radio operator with Company D said that there hadn't been any attacks on the base since they arrived, adding that their Iraqi neighbors have been relatively friendly.
Warchuck and his buddies indicated that life was a steady drumbeat of work, chores, working out and sleep. But even in this spartan environment, Soldiers have established some of the pleasures of home including satellite TV, the Internet, and phones to call home. And ever the innovators, Soldiers here play a hybrid sport to pass the time they call dragon football (Company D is also known as Dragon Company), which is a cross between rugby and football.
"This is just one big ole family," said Warchuck. "If one person has a bad day - the rest of us - we try and cheer 'em up."
Cpl. Josh Cornell, a mortar gun line squad leader with Company D, expressed that his consolation for living in this remote area was doing the job he was trained for.
"I get to shoot mortars this year," he said. "Last deployment we didn't do that, so we get to do our job finally; it's nice."
Cornell mainly shoots illumination rounds at night from the patrol base over specific outlying locations where operations are taking place. Cornell said the rounds light up the night sky like it's sunlight over a diameter of 1,000 meters for approximately one minute.
After speaking with troops and meeting with the sheik, Lynch moved out on foot to tour the village market. He was accompanied by Company D Soldiers including the commander, Capt. Thomas Goettke, and the battalion commander, Lt. Col. R.J. Lillibridge.
The Army wasn't kidding when it said it would centrally locate patrol bases within communities. PB Warrior's Keep is located at the foot of the village market. In just a matter of steps outside the front gate, Lynch was going into shops, shaking hands with residents, and was curious about such details as how much fuel costs.
Lynch spent about 45 minutes in the market which consisted of about 30 shops along two sides of a narrow, barely paved road. The procession then moved along an unpaved side street into a residential area before returning to base.
If life within the walls of the patrol base has become somewhat routine, the infantrymen and personal security detail, conversely, took nothing for granted on the streets. They moved tactically, focusing on their job to provide security for the CG and the leadership. The Soldiers providing security were friendly and professional with the onlookers, yet they generally maintained a buffer of a few meters with them as a precaution.
The tour turned out to be a calm afternoon stroll, with the only disturbances being the occasional yelping dog or the squawking of nervous chickens awaiting their fate in vendors' cages. A produce stand with shiny and appetizing fruits and vegetables neatly stacked in pyramids was the only visual that seemed out of place in the otherwise shabby marketplace this day.
Warchuck summed up the potential for Sadr al Yusifiyah and the surrounding area.
"In my opinion we are completing the mission, so they (Iraqis) can take over when we leave, so no one else has to come out here."

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