By Sgt. Jon Soles, MND-B PAOMay 20, 2009
BAGHDAD - The Annihilators of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, did their part to help local villagers here during a humanitarian food drop with the Iraqi Army in the village of Firra Shia, west of Baghdad, on May 17.
The humanitarian food drop followed days of planning by the Soldiers of Co. A, and their Iraqi Army partners, both at Joint Security Station Aqur Quf west of Baghdad. The mission highlighted the ability to utilize military assets, both American and Iraqi, to meet needs in the community where the Soldiers live and work.
1st Lt. Michael Neel of Glendale, Calif., an armor officer assigned to Co. A 2nd Bn., 8th Cav. Regt., said humanitarian missions show the many facets of the American and Iraqi Soldiers ability to improve life for Iraqis. It is also key to overcoming past skepticism Iraqi citizens may have felt toward the ISF, Neel said. The lieutenant said some Iraqis had a fear of their military, dating from the Saddam Hussein era.
"I think it's important for the community to see that the IA and the government of Iraq care just as much about them as we do," Neel said. "In the past, they did not trust the IA, but now they trust them and see they can trust them as much as us."
The Annihilators and the IA arrived at a school in Firra Shia with a truckload of food. The food bags consisted of rice, beans, cooking oil and tomato paste. Iraqi citizens who were identified to receive aid arrived, ready to claim their food. Men, women and children smiled as they accepted their bags from the back of an IA pickup truck. Neel said the Soldiers of Co. A and the IA worked to make the food drop a success through coordination. While distribution of the food was coordinated by the IA, the Annihilators took up defensive positions around the school to keep security.
"The most important thing is coordination - the language barrier and culture barrier," Neel said. "You have to be aware of it at all times, but you have to be tactically aware at all times too."
The mission's purpose was more than just to help eliminate hunger, according to Neel. It was a way to maintain a good relationship between the Iraqi people, the ISF and American Soldiers.
"We go out on patrols and we talk to them. You get an understanding of the town or village area," Neel said. "From a security standpoint, it increases our profile in the village itself."
Even though a good relationship with the Iraqis is helpful, the Annihilators also want to let the ISF take the lead in humanitarian missions, according to Neel.
Staff Sgt. Valentin Arreola, an infantryman from Los Angeles, said he was pleased with the mission, and also noted that it was the ISF who handed out the bags of food.
"It went pretty well, nobody got hurt and everybody got their rations," Arreola said. "We want the Iraqi people taking care of the Iraqis to get them to rely on them instead of us."
The Soldiers of A Co. and their weapons can do much more than fight the enemy, and winning the peace often involves warriors taking on the role of the humanitarian. The Soldiers of Co. A lived up to their "Annihilator" nickname, helping annihilate hunger and improving the lives of Iraqi citizens.