By Army Capt. Benjamin Roark
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 2, 2008 - The line extended out the gate and around the corner, and it disappeared up the narrow street as residents of Dehna, a village west of Baghdad, lined up waiting for aid May 29. The mood was the same at every point in the line: excitement, relief and gratitude. Whether it was a woman there for her family or one of the scores of children waiting for a free toy and maybe some candy, all were grateful to the soldiers who brought them help and hope.
Commando soldiers of the 6th Company, 24th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, distributed food with U.S. soldiers from their partnered unit, the 25th Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment "Gimlets," 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, part of Multinational Division Baghdad.
Since taking control of the area in January, the U.S. and Iraqi soldiers have made great strides in conducting combined operations to secure the population of Baghdad's Abu Ghraib district. This humanitarian aid mission is an example of how well the units have learned to work together.
"I was surprised how quickly the resources came together, and at the capabilities of the commando company," said Army Capt. David Uthlaut, a native of Charleston, S.C., and commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, attached to the Gimlets.
The combined effort was a result of the village sheik expressing his village's need for food. Uthlaut said he immediately turned to the Iraqi 24th Brigade for help. "They were eager to get the mission under way as soon as possible," he said.
The Iraqi commandos have proven themselves in several past operations with Gimlet soldiers, but this was the first mission of this kind the two units conducted together. It proved to be a big success.
"They already have a reputation for being tactically proficient," said Army Spc. Aaron Miller, a native of San Antonio, and infantryman with Company C. "Now the people also see a different side -- one that cares and protects."
(Army Capt. Benjamin Roark serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 25th Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.)