By Sgt. Jeremy D. CrispFebruary 27, 2008
FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq - The soldiers of the El Salvadorian army wrote a song - one about the changing of uniforms from woodland to desert camouflage upon deploying and becoming a part of the esteemed, 280-man CuscatlAfA!n Battalion.
On Feb. 22, the newest group of soldiers to be in the battalion had that opportunity when they took the lead as the 10th rotation, CuscatlAfA!n Battalion, during a transfer of authority ceremony at Forward Operating Base Delta.
The outgoing ninth rotation served sixth months in the Al Kut area in which FOB Delta is located. The soldiers completed numerous civil projects during their time here, and that didn't go without notice, said Brig. Gen. Edward Cardon, deputy commander, Multi-National Division - Center.
"You continued the building of and completed 25 civic-action projects," he said. "You've distributed more than 700 tons of humanitarian items, built schools and clinics, and the list goes on. You are true team players in this truly national base."
As Cardon noted the accomplishments of the ninth rotation, incoming commander Col. Walter Mauricio Arevalo Gavidia did likewise, noting that his rotation will continue the work of his predecessor.
"We extend our respect and admiration to each member of the ninth rotation," Gavidia said.
"We know we have many challenges here," he continued. "We know that there are many families in many different countries wishing that every one of their loved ones will do their best for this noble cause; for our common objectives to gain a better life for the Iraqi people."
The battalion - which is named after the ancient Mayan warrior CuscatlAfA!n - is comprised of four companies, its soldiers hand picked from the El Salvadorian army. Infantry, engineer, combat service support and special forces soldiers round out the unit. All of whom take great honor in serving in the battalion.
"We take great pride in coming to Iraq and serving in the CuscatlAfA!n Battalion," said Tech. Spec. 2nd Class Julio Eduardo Castro, the ninth rotation's interpreter.
Being in Iraq hasn't been without peril though. The unit has lost five soldiers to combat, with several seriously wounded. This will also be the second or third deployment for several of the unit's soldiers, Castro said.
As the ninth rotation soldiers redeploy to their parent units, they leave knowing they will always be able to wear the CuscatlAfA!n Battalion unit patch on their uniforms as a badge of honor, Castro said.
They did their best, said outgoing commander, Col. Jose Atilio Benitez Parada, and upheld the creed in which they live by.
"We live by the creed that the Salvadorian soldier is a warrior who doesn't take out his sword without a reason, nor does he put it away without honor," Parada said. "For all you soldiers of the CuscatlAfA!n Battalion, ninth rotation, my recognition, congratulations and thankfulness for carrying out an excellent job helping the Iraqi people."
Since coming to Iraq, the battalion has completed 277 civil projects, for a sum of $25.6 million in financial aid. They have helped more than seven million people in different provinces to date, Parada said.