FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq- A significant part of a commander's responsibility when one deployed unit replaces another is making the necessary connections and establishing a rapport with the same important individuals as the previous unit.

Improving the security conditions and the economic opportunities for the residents of Kirkuk province was the focus as Col. Ryan Gonsalves, the 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade's commanding officer, met with two Iraqi generals at their separate headquarters February 1st. The 2nd BCT will partner with the 12th Iraqi Army Division, replacing their former partners, elements from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division on February 14th.

"2nd BCT will be partnered with the 12th Iraqi Army Division, currently operating north of Baghdad," said Maj. Christopher Norrie, the operations officer of 2nd BCT. "The purpose of the partnership is to jointly conduct operations and training as a team, with the goal of ultimately preparing the partnered unit to operate on its own."

During the first meeting, Gonsalves met with Brig. Gen. Abdul Razaaq, the Commander of the 46th Iraqi Army Brigade, a brigade subordinate to the 12th IA Division. The 46th IA Brigade is responsible for the security of the oil pipelines around Kirkuk. The two met at Forward Operating Base Gains-Mills, outside the city of Kirkuk.

The conversation focused on the importance of partnering Iraqi military and "Black Jack" Soldiers during operations within Kirkuk.

"This brigade is very good, and with a partnership, it will be even better," said Gonsalves. "I hope this partnership will start at the Soldier level."

Gonsalves explained to Razaaq the benefits his Soldiers could provide in helping train Iraqi Army soldiers.

"Most of our non-commissioned officers and junior officers have been here many times, and they are very well trained," said Gonsalves.

Razaaq said he hopes that combined units could work together closely on different operations, so that the IA Soldiers could learn from their US partners.

The leaders also discussed cooperation between the IA soldiers and citizens of Kirkuk.

"With the area we are in, the number one goal is to keep a good relationship with the people," said Razaaq. "We need to show the local people that the coalition forces-along with the IA-are here to help the people and bring peace and prosperity to the
region. The coalition forces and IA need to work together to arrest the terrorists and lift the local morale."

Later in the day, Gonsalves met with Brig. Gen. Malik Khudir-Khudir Ahmed, the commander of the 47th Iraqi Army Brigade. The leaders continued discussions over helping the citizens of the Kirkuk province.

"I am very optimistic," said Malik. "I think we are going toward a better life."

Malik mentioned that many still fear the military following Saddam Hussein's rule. Malik wants to start an active community relations program to allow local citizens to come and see the IA at work, so they can understand the mission that the IA has in the region.

"The partner relationship is at the core of why we're here," said Norrie. "We're honored to be here at this time in Iraq's history so we can help them achieve their goals."