By Sgt. Kissta Feldner, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division Public AffairsNovember 3, 2011
RAMADI, Iraq, Nov. 3, 2011 -- Once known as a breeding ground for insurgents, terrorized by frequent bombings and assassinations, Anbar province is now considered a shining example of the power of partnership. The cooperation between American Forces and the government of Iraq over the last five years has strengthened the area in many ways, the most prominent being in the capabilities and competence of the Iraqi Security Forces.
The climax of that successful alliance has finally come, as the Iraqi government begins accepting responsibility for installations throughout the province from the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade.
Capt. Bradford Gaddy, commander of the Falcon Brigade's B Co., 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, signed over responsibility of the Anbar Operations Center, or AOC, and the Anbar Police Directorate, or APD, to the government of Iraq, Oct. 30. This historic event signified the completion of U.S. forces' role in the province and their confidence in the ISF to protect their home without U.S. assistance.
In 2006, the government of Iraq and the people of Anbar began working with coalition forces to go on the offensive against al-Qaeda. The 'Awakening,' which was the collaboration of tribal leaders, citizens and U.S. forces against the terrorist network, initiated the development of the Iraqi police. However, the Iraqi Police and the Iraqi Army lacked the means necessary to fight against such an organized and well-armed terrorist group.
U.S. forces' mission changed in response to this; troops were now serving as an advise, train, assist and equip entity, with an end state of ensuring the Iraqis could fight this battle themselves, secure their province, and guarantee the safety of their people.
Troops provided the Iraqi Security Forces with everything from uniforms to weapons and vehicles. But giving them the supplies they needed wasn't enough. They had to learn how to use them. American Soldiers began teaching Iraqis the basics.
Soldiers were then living and working within the AOC and APD compounds, making it easier to train the local forces and interact with government officials at the installations.
Due to the amount of information flowing between government officials, the ISF and the soldiers, being close to the installations ensured there was no loss of communication.
"We were a liaison to keep the Brigade up to speed on what the Iraqis were doing," said Lt. Col. Eric Campany, the 2/82's Stability Transition Team chief for the AOC.
He said in addition to building and maintaining rapport, their proximity allowed Soldiers to support ISF operations on short notice.
"We would get calls in the middle of the night to respond to an event," he said, and they could quickly coordinate with the Iraqis and facilitate their operations as necessary.
With the signing of the security agreement in 2008, security responsibilities in Anbar were relinquished to the ISF. All operations in the area were to be led by Iraqis. American troops took to advising the ISF as the Anbar forces stepped up to secure their province.
The 2/82 continued with this mission in support of Operation New Dawn, gradually reducing their input as U.S. forces prepared their withdrawal from the country's largest province by the end of the year. In October, they began turning over installations that had been manned by Americans for years.
From the beginning of the deployment, paratroopers began repairing broken equipment and adding items to inventory lists in preparation for handing over property that had been accumulating over nine years, Gaddy said. "A lot of work was put in behind the scenes," he added.
Now on his second tour to Iraq, the first in 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, this experience has been especially significant to Gaddy.
"It was important for me to see how different things are. We're living and working right beside them," he said, which would have been unthinkable during his last deployment.
Along with the closure of these installations, U.S. operations throughout Iraq are also coming to an end. The people of Anbar now look toward a promising future and remember the vital partnership that helped create it.
Anbar's Deputy Governor Hikmat Jassim Zaidon said everything they've worked for is finally paying off, and it couldn't have been done without the support of the American troops.
"This is all because of the U.S. forces' hard work and sacrifice," he said.