By Staff Sgt. Melissa Applebee, United States Division-SoutJune 14, 2010
COB BASRA, Iraq - As the drawdown date approaches, the contributions of individual service members from the U.S. and allied nations have been immeasurable in the continued success of Iraqi Security Forces during this period.
One such Soldier in the former category is Sgt. Daniel Foley of the 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, currently deployed to Basrah from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Since February, Foley has been the team leader of the aerial reaction force, which has been training the Iraqi Special Forces of the 14th Commando Brigade.
The ARF is called to escort explosive ordnance disposal elements and do battle damage assessments of improvised explosive device strikes. They are also responsible for responding to IED attacks before the quick reaction force can arrive, or in areas where QRF vehicles cannot traverse.
"We were trained to be ready at a moment's notice to go over to the birds, take accountability of all the sensitive items, get up, get ready, have the grid, and just being prepared at any given time, and then go jump on the birds and hit the (landing zone)," says Foley of his mission with the ARF.
Foley and his squad of eight Soldiers trained the ISF on air assault tactics. At 25 years old, Foley has just two years in the Army and was promoted to sergeant on June 1 of this year. Foley was part of the first team to integrate with the ISF for air missions.
"Foley stepped up and led his squad on over five ARF callouts to hostile sites and [also led] an ISF squad in dismounted patrols throughout the Basra Province," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffery Keesee, Foley's first sergeant.
"Sgt. Foley is an outstanding Soldier and an exceptional, as well as natural, leader." Keesee said. "He was an integral part of our success in working with the 14th IA Commando Brigade."
With mere months of military service under his belt, Foley was assigned as a team leader upon his arrival to his unit. The position did not come without challenges.
"Coming in and showing up to the unit in late 2008, already being a specialist, I already had that stigma of 'oh, he's just the college boy.' Definitely the biggest challenge has been overcoming the stigma of 'well, this guy's got less than two years in, what...does he know''" said Foley.
But Foley's leadership abilities and positive attitude prevailed, and he quickly earned the respect and confidence of his Soldiers and leaders alike.
"[Foley] is a natural leader who inspires all around him. He has a constant positive attitude and tackles the toughest missions with a smile on his face," said Capt. Ryan Stidum, Foley's company commander, who was not the only one to comment on Foley's positive attitude over the 50 missions he has completed during his deployment.
"He has made this deployment just a little more bearable being able to walk outside and see his smile and enthusiasm," Keesee said.
As U.S. forces draw down, ISF are prepared to make the transition of taking on increasingly more responsibility in Iraq's security.
"A majority of these men had already been trained by the British, but they took what we trained them and what the British trained them on, and they combined it pretty effectively," Foley said of the ISF he has trained.
"We would go on combined missions out in the Basrah Area of Operations, and you could see it was starting to click with these guys. I watched them transform from having all the tools they needed to being able to use them effectively. It was pretty satisfying to feel confident that once we leave these men can control the situation and effectively stop anything that might cause a disruption of Iraqi peace."
He says the missions and training the ISF were enjoyable, but carrying out missions and training the ISF are not what Foley is most proud of since he's been here.
"I would say that the bonds you make with the guys are the biggest difference I've made since I've been here," Foley said.
"Even if it's just the shared boredom, the shared misery of being 3,000 miles away from everybody you really want to be around," he said. "Being forced to be with these guys 24/7, you definitely make some close bonds, and that would probably be the best thing to take away from it."
Foley said of his future plans, he has submitted his Officer Candidate School packet once, and plans to submit it again.
Foley has big plans when he returns from Iraq as well. He and his fiancAfAe, Rachel, are planning to be married in March 2011, and Rachel has orders of her own for Foley.
"She's also given me a deadline on kids, so I've got the next year or so and I'll be a father. I just can't wait to have the starting quarterback at the University of Georgia."
Foley's leaders are confident he will be successful at whatever he pursues.
"He is something special and will no doubt become an exceptional leader of Soldiers; they all deserve his leadership," said Stidum.
Keesee also expressed confidence in Foley's future success.
"He is very mature, talented, and was, is, and will be a force multiplier wherever he is," Keesee said.