FORT HOOD, Texas -- For more than eight years the U.S military has actively worked throughout Iraq. Now, with the military drawdown complete, units' can reflect on their legacies they left behind.

One unit that has left its mark in Iraq is the 2nd Brigade Combat Team "Black Jack," 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas.

Black Jack's fourth and most recent deployment to Iraq started in May 2011 and was completed December 2011.

History of the brigade's successes in Iraq started January 2004 when it was attached to the 1st Armored Division, and later attached to the 1st Cav. Div., headquartered in Western Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom I/II. While there, the Soldiers conducted combat/security operations and provided essential services to the people of Iraq.

The brigade's second tour took place in late 2006. Stationed again in Baghdad, Black Jack troops took on counterinsurgency operations while continuing operations, and providing essential services and governance.

Black Jack's third deployment found them stationed at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk. The brigade's focus during the deployment was on reducing Arab-Kurd tension while helping restore the local economy through project issuances.
The Black Jack Brigade's final deployment to Iraq came with a change in mission, said Col. John Peeler, commander 2/1 CAV. The brigade took on an advise and assist role for Operation New Dawn.

Black Jack assumed responsibility for their mission from the 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 25th Infantry Div., Hawaii, and began transitioning and re-posture more than a half dozen bases throughout two of the largest provinces in Iraq -- Diyala and Salah-a-Din, according to Peeler.

Black Jack Soldiers succeeded in transitioning bases ahead of schedule despite the massive logistical operations of moving approximately eight years worth of equipment out of Iraq, he continued.

A combined effort between the Black Jack Headquarters and its six battalions aided the overall success of the brigade, he explained. Each Battalion carried out their own specific but vital mission.

Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment "Mustangs," 2/1 CAV, were stationed on FOB Warhorse, in Diyala province, for the majority of their deployment. The Mustangs were responsible for conducting counter - indirect fire (C-IDF) missions and force protection patrols around Warhorse, said Maj. Grant Fawcett, Black Jack's operations officer.

Additionally, an element of the Mustang Soldiers trained and advised Iraqi Security Forces at the Kirkush Military Training Base (KMTB) in Iraq, explained Fawcett. As the Mustangs left KMTB they transitioned it to the ISF in August 2011.

The 1st Bn., 5th Cav. Regt.'s "Black Knights," headquarters was located on Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq. Black Knights conducted various operations around the COB to include force protection and C-IDF patrols, he said.

Black Knight Company C. Soldiers also supported a compound at the Bayji Oil Refinery, added Fawcett. The Soldiers conducted security operations for Black Jack logistical convoys along various routes within the two provinces. Their compound was transitioned to the Iraq government in October 2011.

Soldiers from the 2nd Special Troops Battalion "Spartans", 2/1 CAV, started the deployment conducting operations within FOB Warhorse, stated Fawcett. The Spartans were responsible for handling all base operations at the mayor cell.

The Spartans were also responsible for collapsing and realigning Warhorse as well as staffing a portion of the troop medical clinic, managing room assignments, and their engineers took on a project to help rebuild a canal that surrounds Warhorse, he continued. Warhorse was transitioned to the Iraq Ministry of Youth and Sports October 2011.

After departing Warhorse, Spartan Soldiers took on a mission in Kirkuk helping the 1st Bde., 1st Cav. Div., run base operations, said Fawcett.

The 4th Squadron, 9th U.S. Cavalry Regiment "Dark Horse", was headquartered at COB Cobra in the Southern Diyala province. The primary efforts for Dark Horse Squadron Soldiers was to conduct advising, training, assisting, and equipping (ATAE) with the ISF and Kurdish Peshmerga, he said.

Additionally, multiple troops (companies) within the battalion were responsible for performing trilateral lines of effort at multiple checkpoints within the Combined Security Area (CSA) with Iraqi Army and Peshmerga, added Fawcett. Dark Horse Soldiers also performed C-IDF patrols and security for Cobra, he added.

Transfer of the checkpoints and Cobra itself were completed within the first week of September 2011. After the base transfer, Dark Horse Soldiers were stationed at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, where they worked with the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment "Red Dragons", conducting C-IDF and security around the base, stated Fawcett.

Red Dragon Soldiers built relationships throughout Southern Salah-ah-Din with the ISF and qada leaders to ensure maximum force protection around Balad.

"We partnered with the ISF to conduct route clearance and counter indirect-fire patrols to disrupt and defeat violent extremists within the surrounding cities," explained Lt. Col. Nate Cook, commander of 3rd Bn., 82nd FA Regt., in a November 2011 interview.
The Red Dragons also assisted the Air Force's 332nd Security Forces Group in transitioning JBB to the GOI, added Cook.

Assisting the Red Dragons in transition of JBB while running a full-scale logistical operation for the entire Black Jack Brigade was the Soldiers of the 15th Brigade Support Battalion "Gamblers."

Gambler Soldiers worked closely with the AF 332nd Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, the 77th Sustainment Brigade and numerous contractors at JBB to ensure supplies were sustained throughout the base until the transition of the base was complete, explained Lt. Col. Matthew Ruedi, commander of the 15th BSB, in a November 2011 interview.

Additionally, the Gamblers conducted numerous logistical convoys and provided supplies to the brigade and their sister battalions, he added in the interview.

While the bulk of their work took place at JBB, the Gamblers took on additional missions with the Spartans at FOB Warrior, Ruedi said. JBB was transferred to the GOI November 2011.

Although the Brigade's mission in Iraq was primarily geared toward ATAE the Iraqi Security Forces and transitioning and reposturing bases, the Soldiers still faced combat situations.

"I don't think there was anything about this deployment that made it not a combat deployment," added Peeler. "We lost Soldiers and had Soldiers injured."

As 2011 came to a close, the Black Jack brigade departed Iraq and headquartered at Camp Buerhing, Kuwait, from November 2011 until the completion of their tour.

Our last tour in Iraq left behind a historic legacy of lasting relationships with the people of Iraq, explained Peeler.

Peelers' last thoughts to the people of Iraq were ones of new hope and new opportunities for the country and its people.

"U.S. Forces have been taking part in operations in Iraq for 8 - 9 years to set the conditions you have now," said Peeler about the people of Iraq. "The conditions have been set for a prosperous economy, a representative democracy and a potentially prosperous future."

"Don't squander these opportunities," he continued. "We purchased them with the blood, sweat, tears and lives of USF for you."

Those lives included Black Jack Soldiers from past to present. Now that Black Jack Soldiers have returned home from their final chapter in Iraq, they look to the future and what it holds.

Peeler said his brigade is going back to exercising the basic fundamentals of their military skills.

"We are going to get right back into individual training," added Peeler, "back to the fundamentals, the basics, the blocking and tackling of war fighting."

Peeler said he is proud of his brigade's accomplishments in Iraq, and is appreciative of all the Soldiers within the brigade - their efforts, hard work, leadership and selfless service to the brigade and U.S. Army.

The 2/1 CAV is not currently scheduled for deployment and future missions have not been specified.