CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - The 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division hosted a social gathering, including a cookout and a soccer tournament, for Iraqi Army troops and a volunteer group from Ameriya, a neighborhood in the Al Mansour District of western Baghdad here, Oct. 28.

"Today is a chance for us to get together with our partners in Ameriya," said Huntsville, Ala. native, Lt. Col. Dale Kuehl, commander of the 1-5 Cav., whose unit operates in Ameriya attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.

Those partners include the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Division Iraqi Army, and the Forsan Al Rafadeen (FAR), which in Arabic means "knights of the river." FAR is a group of local volunteers who have come forward to work with security forces to provide safer conditions to Ameriya, added Kuehl, who hails from Huntsville, Ala.

"Ameriya was a battlefield for most of the summer," said Kuehl. "At this time, al-Queda is defeated. We thought it was a good time to recognize that and get together and have a good time."

With three well-played games in the morning, the soccer tournament was the main activity of the gathering. The 1-5 Cav. team played hard, but ended up being overtaken by both the Iraqi Army team, 2-1, and the FAR team, 5-1. In the end, the FAR players were able to beat the Iraqi Army team 2-0.

While the gathering did have a competitive edge to it with the round-robin tournament, most participants just seemed to want to have fun.

"We came to enjoy ourselves and play a game, not to win," said Iraqi Army Maj. Emad Kareen, commander of Company A, 2/1/6 IA and their team coach. "Playing sports helps to build relationships in the field."

After the soccer tournament, trophies were handed out.A,A The Iraqis were then invited to head over to the East Logistics Support Area mayor cell to join the cavalry troops in a cookout.

Being able to play a friendly game of soccer and eat steak and burgers with the Iraqis from Ameriya is quite a change from last year, when 1-5 Cav. was just getting here.

"We just didn't have that close of a relationship with the community," said Kuehl. "Now we do, and I think that's a sign of progress not just for us, but for all of Baghdad."

One reason for this success in Ameriya seems to be the importance the 1-5 Cav. has placed on developing working relationships with the Iraqi Army and the residents of Ameriya.

"Here, it's not so much how many doors you knock down, but how many neighbors you are able to end up with at the end of the day," said Bakersfield, Calif. native, Command Sgt. Maj. Fidel Gomez, 1-5's senior noncommissioned officer.A,A

Much has changed in Ameriya since the FAR volunteers began working with Coalition Forces and the IA, said Saad Abo Abid, the FAR commander.A,A With enhanced security in the area, he said businesses are beginning to reopen, improving the economic future of the area, as well.

Overall, the gathering seemed to be focused on fellowship and success, which these three groups have had with their cooperation and willingness to work together to make Ameriya a better and safer place for those who live there.