By Spc. C. Terrell Turner, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry DivisionNovember 1, 2006
Army News Service, Oct. 31, 2006 - As international headlines report sectarian violence across Baghdad and the cities in the surrounding region, Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldiers at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, are working together to re-establish a level of security that will allow local residents to return safely to Saab al Bour.
During Ramadan, terrorist cells and rival Shia and Sunni factions pushed the level of violence to unprecedented levels and forced local residents to flee to nearby Khadimiya and other areas.
Soldiers from the 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, led the way in responding to the violence by aggressively conducting missions against suspected terrorists with mounted and dismounted patrols as well as providing counter-fire against mortar attacks.
The Joint Coordination Center, located at the Saab al Bour Police Station, houses the combined forces of 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment soldiers, Iraqi army soldiers and Iraqi police officers. Formerly part of a local government complex, the location now is the central command and control location for the coordination and mission execution in the greater Saab al Bour region. MND-B soldiers periodically rotate from Camp Taji to work at the JCC.
The soldiers said they felt their efforts were paying off.
"The numbers of attacks have decreased. This is my third time out here, and it's been pretty quiet," said Capt. Matt Cooper, assistant intelligence officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 7th Squadron., 10th Cavalry Regiment.
Cooper describes his job as "trying to paint a picture of what's going on for the commander."
In addition to that mission, Cooper said he seeks to develop the cities demographics to get a better block-by-block picture of the Shia and Sunni living in the town.
"The local nationals are starting to call the tip lines a lot more," he said. "We send out as many patrols as we can to respond, but their level of trust in us is definitely starting to increase"
Maj. Anthony Nichols, senior Military Transition Team advisor, 1st Tank Battalion, 2nd Tank Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division, makes the JCC a daily stop between his patrols with his soldiers to compare notes.
"We captured 18 bad guys over the last 10 days," he said. "I think we are having a large amount of success with keeping them from consolidating and establishing themselves in the city. The most effective strategy is to go where they think you won't go."
As violence within Saab al Bour grew, health care providers departed and left residents with few options outside traveling long distances for emergency health care. Soldiers from 7th Squadron., 10th Cavalry Regiment, responded by establishing a clinic inside the JCC for soldiers, Iraqi Security Forces and local nationals needing emergency medical assistance.
"We've treated about 35 local nationals for trauma injuries here," said Staff Sgt. Robert Rushworth, aid station noncommissioned officer, HHT. "Anything life threatening means we call a medevac (medical evacuation), or if they are stabilized, the Iraqi police takes them to Khadimiya. The people know that we are here to help them when they get injured. Sometimes when the IPs go into town to respond to an incident, they bring the people here."
Staff Sgt. Richard Giardine, medic, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, prepares an IV Oct. 15 at the Saab al Bour Medical Station, north of Baghdad. Soldiers from the 1st BCT have set up a patrol base to help curb sectarian violence that is plaguing the city. U.S. Army photo
As violence drops off in the city, the local clinics are reopening and Rushworth and his staff are seeing fewer patients.
"We had eight cases the other day, but that was an exception more than a normal day."
MND-B dominance over the airspace above and around Saab al Bour helps keep the number of mortar and rocket attacks to a minimum.
Fire Support Teams at a local observation point in the area coordinate with ground patrols to provide reconnaissance and coordinate air support from AH-64D Longbow Apache attack helicopters. This provides the 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, the opportunity to immediately react and retaliate against mortar fire.
"Before we started, there were a lot more mortar attacks," said Sgt. Bernard Walla, fire support team chief, Troop B, 7th Squadron.
Recently, a patrol working with the fire support team pursued three fleeing suspected terrorists. An Apache spotted the men near the mortar site and reported their location to the patrol. After firing on the patrol, one of the suspected terrorists was killed and two were taken into custody.
"It's getting better," he said. "That was a very good example of the fire support teams working together."
Bryan said he currently conducts three to four patrols a day around the city, rotating on and off with another unit, for around-the-clock security in the area.
"It's hot out here sometimes, but it's not too tough working out here," said Pfc. Francisco Camacho, a forward observer with HHT. "We hear mortars and gunfire periodically but lately, this past week, it has been getting better."
As the people of the city return, Bryan sees them as hopeful but cautious.
"We make sure to stop and talk to people while we are on patrol," he said. "They're trying to be hopeful, but it's been tough for them. They need electricity, food and money, but the main thing they need is the mortars to stop being fired in to the city and for snipers to stop firing on civilians. For us, that means establishing more of a presence around Saab al Bour to stop the insurgents from attacking residents."