By Spc. Howard Alperin, MND-B PAOFebruary 26, 2009
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - Not every Soldier gets an opportunity to close down a military forward operating base.
Soldiers from the 340th Army Reserve Unit, Military Police Company, 91st MP Battalion, 8th MP Brigade, recently did just that by leaving Forward Operating Base Rustamiyah to relocate to Camp Liberty thanks to a Security Agreement that hands over the FOB to Iraqis in March.
The MPs are expected to stay the remainder of their deployment at Camp Liberty before returning stateside in the spring of 2009, while continuing their daily missions of overseeing checkpoints and police transition team training with Iraqi Police in southeastern Baghdad.
"It was a milestone in our deployment," said Spc. Nicole Delia, a Reservist from Clifton, N.Y., referring to the closing of Rustamiyah and the unit's transfer to Camp Liberty. "It's been a long journey; we've come far as a battalion."
"I've seen a drastic change, from training the IPs to now over watching them. We've backed off, and let them run the show."
While living for eight months at Rustamiyah, Soldiers were expected to adapt and take on additional responsibilities in order to carry forth the mission. Delia, a chemical operations specialist, doubled as a radio transmission operator.
Delia said things happened fast soon after it was announced the FOB would be closing.
"T-walls were coming down while we were still living there and the DFAC started running low on food," said Delia.
Fewer amenities and closer quarters created special bonds among Soldiers at Rustamiyah, continued Delia. Camp Liberty is more spread out and takes some getting used to because Rustamiyah was a much smaller FOB.
The MPs have been able to shift living arrangements without losing focus.
"There are less missions now, but things continue now just as they did when Rustamiyah was our home base," said Spc. Amanda Appi, an MP and Reservist from North Branford, Conn.
Getting to their assigned IP Stations, however, has changed due to the transition to Camp Liberty. "It's a farther drive to our area of patrol. Days are a little longer."
The MPs are expected to keep up with providing security, assessing checkpoints and inspecting police stations.
"We keep up with counts on the amount of weapons, detainees and patrols," said Appi.
For identity purposes, they also enter information on detainees and IPs into Hand-held Interagency Identity Detection Equipment, added Appi.
"Deployment is winding down, and we are staying on top of the training that we taught the IP," said Sgt. Harold Carmen, an MP and Reservist, from Plainfield, N.J. "Soldiers have learned a lot about dealing with different cultures."
Though the unique atmosphere of Rustamiyah grew on Soldiers of the 340th MP Co., arriving at Camp Liberty has provided its share of morale boosters as well.
"Soldiers have expressed to Family back home they are going to a bigger FOB and they will have more access to the phone and internet," said Carmen.
Carmen added, closing a FOB is a signal of Iraqi progress and moving ahead with the government of Iraq's goals, but Soldiers are also excited about the prospects of returning stateside.
According to these MPs, Camp 'Rusty', as Rustamiyah was referred to, stands out as a solid achievement and will always hold significant memories for them.