By Sgt. Jason Stadel, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 11, 2008 - Construction of Patrol Base Vanderhorn began in early March near Sayifiyah, a region formerly controlled by insurgents. The patrol base will be home to a company from 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The unit is taking over the area of operations from 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st BCT, 3rd Infantry Division. Both battalions are operationally attached to 2nd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division.
Patrol Base Vanderhorn is named after Staff Sgt. Christopher Vanderhorn, a 1-187th Inf. Regt. soldier killed in an improvised explosive device attack Jan. 1, 2006, during the battalion's previous deployment to Iraq.
Building supplies were transported by 26th Brigade Support Battalion. The 535th Engineer Company, from Grafenwoehr, Germany, was tasked with building the base.
Food, water, base defense systems and living quarters were transported to the base by Companies A and B, 26th BSB. The battalion has helped build numerous patrol bases in the 2nd BCT's area of operations since their deployment began in May. Building patrol bases is a much different mission than what the company tackled on their last deployment.
"Last time we were here, we supported three (forward operating bases)," said Staff Sgt. Carl Beasley, Co. A, 26th BSB operations sergeant, from Pensacola, Fla. "This time we've helped to build 11 patrol bases."
Building patrol bases that allow soldiers to live among local residents is a main counterinsurgency strategy set forth by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq.
Once supplies were delivered, the engineers went to work.
"We're horizontal engineers," said 1st Lt. Derek Benz, 3rd Platoon leader, 535th Engineer Co. "We build from the ground up."
The 535th Engineer Co. also built Patrol Base Meade. The unit is normally a quick-reaction engineer unit that does rapid road repair. For example, if an IED were to explode and create a large crater in the road, they would be called to fix the hole to prevent another IED emplacement there, Benz said. However, with recent work, he said, his soldiers are becoming proficient at building patrol bases.
"We've learned from success," Benz said, referring to PB Meade, which was fully operational in less than 30 days from the day construction started.
Most of the work is done by coalition forces, but there is some Iraqi involvement. A local crane operator, known simply as "Sammy," was hired to move walls and large metal containers into place around the patrol base. Sammy worked at Patrol Base Meade and now is working at PB Vanderhorn. Benz said he is an asset to coalition forces.
"He works and works and works," Benz said. "He never complains; he goes until the job is done. I think he understands that we're here to help, so he works as hard as he can for us."
In most cases, U.S. troops train Iraqis at various skills and trades, however, with Sammy the tables have turned. "This guy has even trained a couple of my soldiers on how to run the crane," Benz said. "He is helping our soldiers get on-the-job experience."
Since liberating Sayifiyah from extremists, coalition forces have started a Sons of Iraq program and held two coordinated medical engagements. The construction of Patrol Base Vanderhorn will put coalition forces among Sayifiyah residents to help rebuild their community, officials said.
(Army Sgt. Jason Stadel is assigned to the Public Affairs Office of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.)