By Spc. William A. Joeckel, 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD-CAugust 5, 2011
BAGHDAD (Army News Service, Aug. 5, 2011) -- Cavalry scouts bundle into two Black Hawk helicopters on a flight line at Camp Taji, Iraq. Loaded with weapons, ammo, radios, and metal detectors, the Scouts take off and fly to an area containing suspected weapons caches.
The cavalry scouts, with "Ghost" Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st "Vanguard" Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division-Center, constantly take on an ever-evolving list of duties.
With the protection of U.S. and Iraqi forces stationed at Camp Taji in mind, the purpose of the mission is to enable continuous security for the base in an area to which it was previously difficult to travel.
"Our air mobility mission's purpose is to show that we can go over 'there' and that we will go over 'there,'" said 1st Lt. Brent Sommers, the platoon leader for the Scouts.
The helicopters whir over the picturesque Tigris River, along with its small villages, palm groves, and farmland. As the Black Hawks land in a field, with dust and debris swirling through the air, the scouts jump out and lay in the prone position as the helicopters lift off. The scouts continue their mission on foot.
Walking through tall brush and low-lying fields, the Vanguard Soldiers encounter shepherds and villagers going about their daily business. Kiowa-attack helicopters fly overhead to provide support from the air by continuously supplying the dismounted Scouts information on the surrounding area.
"We do perimeter patrols and screens on routes to do counter-[indirect fire] missions, and counter-[Improvised Rocket-Assisted Mortar] patrols, looking for any possible launch sites," Sommers said. "Mainly, we are looking to deter the anti-Iraqi forces."
As the Soldiers approach suspected cache sites, disturbed earth and densely-shrouded palm groves are searched for weapons that could possibly be used against local nationals, U.S. troops, and Iraqi Security Forces in combined military bases.
During the clearing of each site, the scouts provide security for each other using vegetation and irrigation ditches as cover and concealment.
Afterward, the scouts secure the helicopter landing zone and the Black Hawk helicopters return to take the Soldiers back to base. Seconds after the helicopters touch down, Soldiers rush to the doors after tapping the shoulder of the man next to him, signaling that it's time to mount up.
As their name implies, the job of a cavalry scout is to be the commander's eyes and ears on the battlefield. For many of the scouts, the missions they perform in Iraq are exactly why they joined the Army.
"The scouts are pleased with the missions they are doing now," said Sgt. 1st Class Justin Westbrook, platoon sergeant of Ghost Platoon, HHC, 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt. "Dismounted operations and denying the enemy terrain are the types of missions we like to do."
After a week of training to complete the mission, their hard work paid off. The Soldiers performed with such proficiency that a bystander wouldn't know the difference between the scouts and air assault veterans.
"The Scouts are performing excellent in these missions," Sommers said. "We trained up and are now performing like any air-mobile group."