By Maj. Jose Garcia, USA
FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq, Aug. 17, 2006 – The 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, officially assumed responsibility for security in parts of Mahmudiyah, Yusufiyah and Lutufiyah, Iraq, earlier this week. During the Aug. 14 transfer of authority ceremony at the Iraqi army compound in Mahmudiyah, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, transferred to the Iraqi brigade known as the "Desert Lion" absolute responsibility for security of a region that includes roughly 322 square kilometers in southern Iraq. Many refer to the area as the "triangle of death."
Local sheiks, community leaders and senior military leaders who worked closely with the Iraqi unit throughout the past 11 months were also in attendance during the hour-long ceremony, which included a pass in review and a demonstration of combat tactics by Iraqi soldiers. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Eric Conrad, commander of 2nd Brigade Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT, and military transition team chief for the Iraqi brigade, worked closely with the unit and said he was proud to see the progress they have made.
"I am very proud of the soldiers of this unit," he said. "They have demonstrated that they are ready to move forward to the next level and take responsibility for security of this area." In addition to security, Iraqi forces in the region also assist with humanitarian and civic actions. The unit has provided security for many essential service construction projects, helped repair local schools and improved local area appearance and pride in the community.
"In addition to fighting well and ensuring the security of Iraqis in key areas of south Baghdad, the 4th Brigade, 6th IAD, has done a great job in working to improve essential services and quality of life in the area," U.S. Army Col. Todd Ebel, 2nd BCT commander, said. "The brigade's soldiers have helped repair several local schools and other facilities long neglected. Many have simply selflessly served their people and are committed to making their communities better."
Ebel expressed confidence in the soldiers and leaders of the Iraqi unit. "Colonel Ali is a true patriot," he said of the Iraqi unit's commander. "I have watched him and his brave soldiers continue to excel and keep up the fight against terrorists and other insurgents.
"I do not make this statement lightly," he continued, calling the area "arguably the most complex and most lethal area in all of Iraq." "To operate here and to be effective in balancing lethal and non-lethal counterinsurgency tasks takes raw courage, patience and a strong will to persevere under the harshest conditions," Ebel said. "Daily, Colonel Ali and his men do just that, and they have been phenomenal. I am very proud of them."
Ebel pointed out that the security of the area does not reside only with the Iraqi army and other coalition security forces. "It is the people that must choose peace, freedom and prosperity and cooperate to achieve it," he said. "It is only by working together can Iraqis move forward in their desire for a peaceful and prosperous future."
The 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, assumed responsibility for the Lutufiyah area, the southern part of the triangle, from the U.S. Army's 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, on June 15. A month later, 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, assumed responsibility for the city of Mahmudiyah and the surrounding countryside from 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment.
The Iraqi brigade has demonstrated they are well prepared for their task of security in southern Baghdad and have moved together forward to meet this challenge, U.S. leaders said. "I am proud to have served and trained with such a great group of soldiers," Conrad said. "They are a superb unit and ready to assume this important task of security for south Baghdad."
(Army Maj. Jose Garcia is assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.)