|Oregon Soldiers Amongst First to Transition Operations to Iraqi Control
By Maj. Arnold V. Strong
Public Affairs Officer
March, 3, 2005
Taji, Iraq – Soldiers of Oregon's 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, completed turning over control of their area of responsibility to the Iraqi Army last month as one of the first three areas to transition from American to Iraqi control in the city of Baghdad.
After the majority of the unit pulled out of Patrol Base Volunteer, its headquarters of the past year, the remaining task for the battalion was to clear the base, subdivide the terrain into two different operational headquarters, and to facilitate a relief in place to the Iraqi Army. Maj. Bill Edwards, 36, of Albany, Ore., battalion operations officer, oversaw the operation, and was the ranking officer at the station until it was turned over to Iraqi hands.
“This was a critical component of the transition from Operation Iraqi Freedom II to Operation Iraqi Freedom III,” he explained. “We were responsible to assign a portion of our battle space to units of the Iraqi Army,” he continued, “This is one of the first three areas of Baghdad to be turned over to Iraqi Military control. It is an historic day in Iraq.”
The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Dan Hendrickson, 42, also of Albany, was very pleased with the transition. “The handover of our patrol base and area of operations, and the success of the elections, represents absolute mission accomplishment for our battalion. Our overall mission here was to provide a safe and secure environment for the new, legitimate Iraqi government. A key sub-task was to train our Iraqi National Guard (now Iraqi Army) counterparts to assume responsibility for the security of the area. This Iraqi Army battalion has proved themselves capable and committed to the task of taking ownership of their country.”
Hendrickson's unit has had multiple, overlapping responsibilities over the past year. Elements of this battalion have conducted combat operations in Taji, Fallujah, An Najaf, and North Babil, establishing and facilitating district advisory meetings, leading civil affairs projects in throughout their sector and trained companies of the Iraqi Army. Part of the sector managed by this battalion for the past year will now be controlled by forces that this battalion trained.
The officers and noncommissioned officers of this unit took the job of training the Iraqi Army very seriously. One of the great successes of the training of the new force came from Hendrickson's decision to embed his trainers with the trainees. The soldiers lived, ate, slept and trained with the Iraqis that would become the military leaders of this area after the Volunteers departed. The method has proven to have excellent results.
“From what I have seen,” said Edwards “these soldiers are capable to maintain the security of this sector now and their responsibilities will grow as their capabilities grow.”
Two battalions of the Iraqi Army assumed responsibility for the battle space once controlled by this battalion. The 301st Battalion, Iraqi Army, took charge of one of the sectors in the north of Rusafa, while the 305th Battalion assumed responsibility for the southern sector, including Patrol Base Volunteer.
Maj. Edwards discussed how this transition would benefit the locals. “The great majority of these soldiers come from this district,” explained Edwards. “It would be like us needing to stand up an Army unit back home in Albany. The first guys we'd want to hire would be citizens of Albany. Relationships make a difference in everything, but they will be a major force multiplier in this context. If you've known and trusted your neighbor for years, and he becomes a soldier in your neighborhood, your likely to have a much easier time trusting him to do his job professionally,” he continued.
Lt. Col. Hendrickson took great pride in the transition, because it directly reflected on the quality of his soldiers and the hard work they have accomplished.
“This is the direct result of the great partnership we formed with our Iraqi Army counterparts over the past year,” offered Hendrickson. “These Iraqi soldiers have had solid training, but more importantly, they have been shown a standard of discipline, ethics, and leadership by example,” he continued.
“Our mission here,” he continued, “was to provide a safe and secure environment which would facilitate the transfer of authority to a legitimate Iraqi Government. Being able to turn over security operations in Iraqi soldiers is a significant milestone and a huge success.”
105-0519 – Maj. Bill Edwards, 36, of Albany, joins Iraqi Army Col. Samir in concluding a transition briefing. After this meeting, the counterparts toured the base that has been home to the Oregon Guard battalion for the last year.
Handover-001 – Lt. Col. Dan Hendrickson, 42, also of Albany, tours his patrol base with gaining commander, Iraqi Col. Samir as Maj. Edwards and Col. Samir's translator and aide look on.
Handover-024 – Lt. Col. Hendrickson orients Iraqi Col. Samir to the terrain.
Handover-031 – Lt. Col. Hendrickson shakes the hand of Iraqi Col. Samir, signifying the transfer of authority for both the base and the sector of Baghdad.
Major Arnold V. Strong is the Public Affairs Officer for the Oregon National Guard. He is currently deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, reporting on the actions of the Oregon National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom II as part of the Global War on Terror. He will continue to send regular updates to inform the citizens of Oregon on the accomplishments of the citizen-soldiers of the Oregon National Guard. He will return to Oregon with the battalion in March.
Deputy Public Affairs Officer
Oregon National Guard
503-584-3917, cell 503-931-5179