By Spc. Sharla Lewis, 3rd AAB PAO, 1st Cav. Div. June 7, 2011
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq - Soldiers with 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division work side-by-side with the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police and the Department of Border Enforcement in support of Operation New Dawn.
This role is vital in the final months of U.S. presence in Iraq as the country prepares to stand on its own, and be responsible for the security of its borders and citizens.
Though working with their Iraqi military partners is much of the GREYWOLF Brigade's workload, there is a group of disciplined Soldiers tasked in another advise and assist role.
The security team of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade works at the Contingency Operating Base Adder entry control points alongside men and women from Uganda that work for Dreshak Security Solutions Ltd.
Every day, between 600 and 1,000 Iraqi locals come to COB Adder for work. Some clean latrines or drive trucks while others work as interpreters. The Iraqi Air Force maintains a compound on the base and commutes from nearby towns daily.
Armed guards search each individual that pass through the gates and onto the secured U.S. military base.
From the outside, the facility looks like a large warehouse but inside, a maze of rooms envelope those that pass the threshold. Areas for identification checks lead to body scanners then on to holding areas and later biometric scans.
Vehicles wait in a separate area and are searched using dogs, mirrors and x-ray; techniques one would envision at the border of the U.S. and its neighboring countries.
Occasionally, someone tries to cheat the system.
A young man followed closely behind one Ugandan guard into a side room for questioning. The visitor put a secure digital memory card inside a balloon and hidden it in his pocket; an automatic red flag for the facility.
"Oh! You're trying to be sneaky, aren't you?" said Randy Hibbard, the Ugandan's night shift supervisor, to the man as he walked by.
"I don't think we've ever seen that before. Memory cards are the most common thing to find on these guys, but I don't think we've ever seen one stuffed into a balloon like that," he said later.
Everywhere, the tan uniform and AK-47 assault rifle of the Ugandan guards and the M-4 rifle and digitized pattern of the Army's uniforms walk briskly through the halls carrying paperwork, an iris scanner or badges to their posts.
The men and women work closely together, each with defined roles and specified tasks each day. Often, their duties and responsibilities overlap.
"My crew mans outbound (the vehicle entry and exit point), ECP2, the radios and badge area," said Sgt. Stephen Fogelberg, one of the noncommissioned officers on night shift. "We interact quite frequently, you know, we'll joke around and play with them if we are not busy. We only have to help them with the minor stuff because they already know what to do. It is good team cohesion."
These vigilant U.S. Soldiers are posted in areas where additional security is needed and lend a helping hand if the locals get out of hand or if a supervisor is needed.
Bright smiles and friendly greetings enveloped the busy rooms as Iraqis filed through.
Diana Aliyinza, who is from Kampala, Uganda, is in charge of passing out day badges to the locals that come through. If someone is flagged, she passes the approval process off to the U.S. Soldiers.
"It's freeing, working with these people," said Aliyinza. "I like working here with the U.S. Soldiers," she said. "They are good people; they are here to cover us."
Rush hour at the center slowed to a trickle by about 8:00 a.m. By then, only a few personnel made their way down the long, cement corridor towards the beginning of their hours-long screening process.
The mood lightened as the U.S. Soldiers and Ugandan guards could pause and relax after the long morning.
1st Sgt. Princesso Kamukama, also from Kampala, Uganda, visited with some of his workers and Fogelberg in a common area.
"It has been pretty good since I've been working here," Kamukama said.
The men and women of this platoon work together like many advise and assist roles throughout the brigade, projecting their professionalism on their counterparts and conducting operations smoothly as a team.
"The U.S. are social, they like to work hand in hand with the Ugandans. We work as one team," said Kamukama.