FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq- Following the historic security framework agreement that the governments of Iraq and the United States signed on Jan. 1st, 2009, Fort Hood, Texas, Soldiers will partner with the Iraqi Security Forces and assist the Provincial Reconstruction Team to ensure security, provide economic opportunities to Iraqi citizens, further legitimize the Iraqi Security Forces and assist the Provincial Government in improving its capability to govern in anticipation of the US military's eventual withdrawal from the country, said Col. Ryan F. Gonsalves, the commander of 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

The 2nd BCT is preparing to assume control of the Kirkuk provincial area of operations from 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Forward Operating Base Warrior.

2nd BCT arrives at a pivotal moment in the ethnically diverse province of Kirkuk. Kirkuk is the only province outside of the Kurdistan Regional Government that did not hold provincial elections on Jan. 31st, 2009, said Maj. Robert Blackmon, the 2nd BCT Staff Judge Advocate. Kirkuk is not holding an election until provisions of Article 23 and the provincial elections law are met. The road to normalcy in this province under the Constitution and laws of Iraq involves a resettlement and compensation process for Kurds and Arabs, setting up rules for a provincial council election, conducting a census and, ultimately, a referendum on whether Kirkuk province will join the Kurdish Regional Government or retain its status as an Iraqi province outside the KRG.

The KRG currently consists of an area in northern Iraq that includes the subordinate governances of Duhok, Erbil and Suleimaniah, according to the official KRG website. The KRG is generally considered to be a semi-autonomous region of Iraq.

Saddam Hussein displaced many Kurds from Kirkuk-which was a majority Kurdish city at the time-in northern Iraq. The Government of Iraq is now attempting to correct that policy by facilitating the resettlement of willing Kurds to return to the Kirkuk province, and assisting Arabs who wish to return to their homelands in the south, according to Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law.

Once the resettlement process is complete, the census will determine the voting boundaries for the region, and then the referendum will ultimately determine the future status of Kirkuk, according to Blackmon.

The 2nd BCT's role in this process is to facilitate wherever possible, focusing on governance, economic development, security and assisting the Iraqi police and military forces with training and assistance as required.

"We are here to allow a safe and secure environment, which can lead to economic growth," said Maj. Kevin Capra, the brigade fire support officer and chief of plans.

Fortunately, units that have previously operated in the region have successfully worked to bring the groups together, said Capra.

"Units before us have done a wonderful job in the reconciliation process," said Capra.

As the United States works toward a permanent Iraqi assumption of all government and military functions in Iraq, the 2nd BCT Brigade will help provide security in the region of Kirkuk to make this possible.

"The building block for everything is security," Capra said. "We want to further enable and support them to conduct independent operations."

Our mission is by, with and through the Iraqi government, Capra said. Our missions must go through the Iraqi government; we must work with the Iraqi government; the missions will be accomplished by the Iraqi government.

2nd BCT has many tasks to accomplish; it is just beginning operations in the region. Providing security, working with the Iraq government and facilitating the democratic process whenever possible will all be part of what is required of the "Black Jack" Brigade for the next year.