By Army Sgt. 1st Class Christina Bhatti
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 8, 2008 - Days after intense fighting and the March 30 call to peace from Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers patrol the outskirts of Sadr City, a district of the Iraqi capital, ensuring the safety of the city's residents. Sadr City has been the backdrop of many conflicts for coalition forces since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. It's the poorest of all Baghdad districts and historically has been a safe haven for terrorists.
Soldiers from Company A and a platoon from Company B, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, attached to Multinational Division Baghdad's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, are tired and dirty. They work 24 hours a day, with only catnaps to sustain them, but they relentlessly take to the filth-ridden streets in their mission to drive terrorists out of the area.
What began as a 96-hour tasking March 26 turned into an open ended mission.
Army Capt. Scott Bailey, Company A commander, said the mission in support of combat operations was a success.
"We had some significant contact when we first arrived," said Bailey, a Running Springs, Calif., native, "but we planned good company attacks, and now it is pretty quiet here."
Bailey attributed the quiet to a show of force from the "Gimlets" and other coalition forces, and said he is confident the soldiers have helped the residents of Sadr City.
Where it will lead is anyone's guess, one soldier said.
"We definitely helped stop the shooting, but only time will tell if we help the people improve their future," said Staff Sgt. James Dean, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and platoon sergeant from 4th Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment. For now, the focus is to support the Iraqi security forces and rid the area of terrorists.
When fighting broke out in Sadr City, terrorists targeted the Iraqi army checkpoints with mortar fire, and the Iraqi soldiers eventually left the checkpoint. To help restore their confidence, the Gimlets provided a constant presence and supplies, such as water, to the Iraqi soldiers.
"It is important that we help them get on their feet," Bailey said. "We need to support them and put them out front, so the Iraqi people can gain confidence in their army."
The Gimlet commander said he doesn't know when his soldiers will leave Joint Security Station Ur and head back to their area of operations, but he said he does know his soldiers are working hard to accomplish the mission around Sadr City.
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Christina Bhatti serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.)