BAGHDAD- Soldiers of Company B, 120th Combined Arms Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Multi-National Division-Baghdad, completed their first combat patrol recently.
The Soldiers replaced the 63rd Combined Arms Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, at Forward Operation Base Mahmudiyah.
A platoon leader, 1st Lt. Matthew Mason, of Garner, N.C., gathered Soldiers of Company B for the day's mission brief at the unit's motor pool.
The briefing gets everyone on the same page and clears up any confusion," said Mason.
Five hundred-pound humvee doors slamed shut as the Soldiers prepared to ride out.
Radios in the vehicles chattered as crewmembers relayed information back and forth through the patrol. One member of the crew in each humvee was a Soldier of 63rd CAB; acting as a guide for the 30th HBCT Soldiers.
"The previous Soldiers let us know about the area and the local population," said Mason. "We are the newcomers."
The patrol passes busy marketplaces, shops, flocks of sheep, hitchhikers and even a horse drawn cart along the multi-lane highway. Some vehicles honk as the patrol passes. Several children wave, but most Iraqis continue the business of the day.
The four vehicles arrived at the headquarters of Iraqi 3rd Battalion, noting a pile of weapons taken from the enemy.
Company B leaders met with their Iraqi counterparts and exchanged ideas on how best to cooperate in defeating terrorists in the region.
"Our guys know we are to help the Iraqi Army as they take full charge," said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Johnson, a platoon sergeant from Pembroke, N.C.
"They are our buddies," Mason said. "They like to get to know who they are working with."
Soon the Soldiers shook hands with their hosts and departed for the next part of the mission; traveling to a company of Iraqi soldiers at a nearby outpost.
The outpost covers a bridge across a stream feeding the Tigris and Euphrates watershed. Reeds and other plant growth cover the banks of the stream, with palm and other trees shading the compound.
"These Soldiers patrol, search for improvised explosive devices and weapon caches," said Mason. "They take the fight to the terrorists."
U.S. gunners carefully watch for suspect vehicles and any signs of danger. All the Soldiers look out the windows for any possible threat against the Iraqi civilians lining the hundreds of shops in the district.
"It was exciting," Mason said. "All the years of training and classes are put to use."
Children wave and shout to the Soldiers as the vehicles pass. Nearly every shop has several customers inside, goods of every type line the streets, even melons the size of car tires.
"This area has a lot of money put into it from the U.S. and other sources. It is a whole lot better than the last time I was here with the brigade," said Johnson. "The people are a lot better off."
Returning to FOB Mahmudiyiah, the Soldiers of B Co. conclude their first combat patrol since arriving in Iraq. This will be the beginning of many over the course of their deployment.
Addressing his leaders, once inside the wire, Mason sums it up for his troops.
"You see the benefit of all the training," he said. "It was our final exam."