By Sgt. Antonieta Rico, 5th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentJanuary 3, 2007
BAGHDAD, Jan 2, 2007 - The 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division headquarters, and two of its battalions, trekked from Mosul to Baghdad over a two-day period recently, performing combat operations along the way.
Other elements of the brigade had made the trek earlier.
The arrival of the Stryker brigade headquarters in Baghdad marks a reunion for 3-2 SBCT. Two battalions, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment and 1st Squadron, 14th Calvary Regiment, had been detached from the brigade since its initial deployment, in late July and early August. They have been operating in the Baghdad area while there rest of the brigade has been based out of Mosul.
"The situation in Mosul is relatively stable, it is within the Iraqi Security Forces ability to handle it," said 3-2 SBCT commander Col. Steven Townsend, a Griffin, Ga. native.
"We all know that Baghdad is a very tough fight right now, it is the main focus for the coalition in Iraq," he said, explaining the brigade's move to Baghdad. "People felt that our capabilities would be better useful here and I agree that they will be."
Brigade soldiers are scheduled to remain in the Baghdad area for the rest of the deployment.
Soldiers of 3-2 SBCT bring to Baghdad extensive experience operating in a large urban environment, said Townsend. Mosul is the second largest urban area, next to Baghdad, in Iraq.
"When we arrived in Mosul this second tour almost half, about 45 percent of the brigade (soldiers) were veterans of our last tour in Mosul," he said. "Our soldiers know how to operate in a large urban environment, in an urban fight, and they will be fine here in Baghdad."
The move of Stryker soldiers to Baghdad comes in the heels of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team's redeployment to Fort Wainwright, Alaska. That brigade had been extended four months in order to help control sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital.
During the trek down from Mosul, roughly 225 miles, the 3rd brigade soldiers proved their abilities, conducting combat operations in the remote route, which runs down the east side of Lake Tarthar, a large lake to the north and west of Baghdad, has not had coalition presence the magnitude of the Stryker convoy recently, Townsend said.
Leaders of Task Force Lightning, headed by the 25th Infantry Division, asked the Stryker Brigade to conduct reconnaissance along the route.
"Recent intelligence indicated there was a certain level of enemy activity in that area but we really weren't sure because nobody had operated in that area for a really long time," Townsend said. "We went there to confirm or deny the presence of the enemy."
Sergeant First Class Gregory Gustwiller, platoon leader for 1st Platoon, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment was at the head of the searches in several compounds along the route.
"Our mission was to move from Mosul down to Baghdad International Airport, en route get to know people, see how they are doing and see if they know anything about AIF (anti-Iraqi forces) in that area," Gustwiller said.
"We went in to talk to the people...and find out any information for the unit that owns that battle space," he said.
His soldiers searched houses, knocked on doors and asked people about suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.
The 2-3 Inf. Reg. soldiers were fully prepared to meet heavy resistance in some of the compounds they searched, however it never materialized. Instead the Stryker soldiers were able to successfully gather information to pass on to soldiers of Task Force Lightning, so that they can make their own assessment of that area, Gustwiller said.
Conducting missions during a long move is no big deal for his soldiers, said Gustwiller.
"We are used to doing missions on the move," he said.
Gustwiller approaches the new mission in Baghdad with similar assurance.
"I feel we are 100 percent ready for this," he said. "My men are ready and willing; they are trained. We've been doing this for a while now. The only thing we have to do is change our tactics a little bit."
"The biggest challenge is learning the area, learning how the population works around here, learning who is on whose side," he said.
"We'll roll right into it," he added.
The 3-2 Stryker Brigade is halfway through its scheduled yearlong deployment.