By Sgt. Jon Soles, MND-B PAOJune 20, 2009
BAGHDAD - The Cav Soldiers responsible for security in the town of Jisr Diyala are changing batteries, literally, as Battery B, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division prepares to switch with their sister unit.
The "Pacesetters" of Battery B brought the "Hot Steel" Soldiers of Battery A to the town of Jisr Diyala to meet the town council and National Police leaders here, May 29.
Trust is built on familiarity, and the meetings of the two artillery batteries, both made up of 1st Cavalry Division troops assigned to the 3rd BCT, 82nd Airborne Div., with local Iraqi leaders were intended to help the local leaders get to know their new American counterparts.
The Soldiers of Battery A were received warmly inside the town council room of Jisr Diyala, a small town that hugs the banks of the Diyala River west of Baghdad.
"We are excited to be down here," said 1st Lt. Elliott Grant, of Madison, W. Va., a platoon leader in Battery A, told the Jisr Diyala council members. "We look forward to building a relationship because we are family, your Soldiers are our family and our Soldiers are your family."
Battery B's commander, Cpt. Matthew Hopper, of Little Rock, Ark., sat at the head of the table, flanked by his successor, Cpt. Robert Reece, of Seguin, Texas, commander of Battery A.
"I would like to see this council continue to use this place to bring up concerns," Hopper told the council members. "We have to establish the same goals."
Following the meeting, Hopper and his platoon leaders led the Battery A Soldiers to a series of grain fields behind a row of houses in Jisr Diyala. Just a few weeks earlier, a weapons cache was found in one of the fields.
"One of the reasons we went back to the same site today was to show Battery A where they [insurgents] are hiding these weapons and how they are doing it," said 1st Lt. Joe Zoretic, a platoon leader assigned to Battery B.
Soldiers from the two artillery batteries wrapped up the day by meeting with local National Police to start the security relationship with the Battery A troopers. The battle space formerly occupied solely by Battery B has been split in half to make room for Battery A, which will take over Jisr Diyala.
Reece said he was confident that the transition would be seamless, and that the relationship built by the previous sister unit would continue to yield security and quality of life improvements in Jisr Diyala.
"I think I'm inheriting an incredibly established working relationship. The former commander, Hopper, has done a great job building a relationship with the city council and I just look forward to taking that relationship and building on it even further," said Reece.
An example of his predecessor's progress is the tone of the Jisr Diyala council's meeting with the artillery Soldiers. Instead of security, the council members were more concerned with the restoration of a water plant pump, which Reece said should come online in a matter of days.
"This absolutely shows progress that we're now worried more about the civil capacity of the area and not as much about the security," Reece said. "The local leaders stated security was not one of their big issues any longer. They have not had any serious threats in the area and they are now most concerned about their civil capacity, water and electricity."
Two artillery units dividing up one large operation environment into two smaller areas will mean more boots on the ground, and more reinforcement for security gains.
"... This is a key area for security of Baghdad itself as being part of the belt system so having more forces in the area is definitely a benefit, so we can put an end to the enemy flow of materials to the area," Reece said.