Story and photo by Spc. William A. Joeckel, 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD-C
BAGHDAD–Soldiers with Company C, 1st ‘Vanguard’ Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division – Center have the full-time job of ensuring that Contingency Operating Station Hammer continues operating and that the relationship with the local tenants is maintained.
On the installation, civilian contractors and trainers work side-by-side their U.S. Army counterparts, assisting with things like running base security, operating the dining facilities, fuel and water points, essential equipment, and other logistical tasks.
This teamwork approach has produced a cohesive atmosphere on the COS. Town hall meetings, or open forums, are even in place to ensure anyone who has questions and concerns about anything going on is heard.
“Running COS Hammer is very similar to managing a small town in a lot of ways, and it has developed a small town mentality,” said Capt. Daniel Tower, commander of Company C and an Attleboro, Mass., native. “It is a very tight-knit community and we try to maintain a good working relationship.”
The primary focus of Company C is to guarantee that civilian personnel on the COS are protected and provided with the needed everyday living necessities, starting with ensuring equipment and facilities have the fuel to operate.
“There are a lot of buildings and equipment that run on generators,” said Sgt. Mark Kernan, the fuel and water noncommissioned officer in charge at COS Hammer and a Baton Rouge, La., native. “In addition to fuel, we make sure that potable water makes it to the Soldiers and contractors.”
Company C Soldiers are also responsible for conducting regular patrols around the perimeter walls to maintain security throughout the COS. Often, they even get information from the surrounding local populace.
“If they see something, they will report it,” said 1st Lt. Nathan Stratton, officer in charge of the Base Defense Operations Center and a Norfolk, Neb., native. “We help promote this sentiment by helping to employ some of the local nationals, which gives them a stake in our partnership’s success.”
While base security is handled primarily by the BDOC, the Mayor’s Cell is responsible for taking care of logistics. It audits contracts from contractors who work on the installation and ensures that all agreements are met.
“We are the middle-men that allocate resources on the (COS), that is to say we maintain homeostasis of all the systems that keep things running,” said 1st Sgt. Joseph Ponserella, senior enlisted advisor with Company C and a Saratoga Springs, N.Y., native.
For Soldiers who are primarily M1 Abrams tank crewmen, running a COS is a very different role for them. They run a badging office, work on the helicopter landing zone, and fix everything but tanks.
“We have a great company here (of) Soldiers who really think outside the box,” said Ponserella. “They can do their (Military Occupational Specialty) skill to proficiency, and at the same time perform a myriad of other tasks.”
The efforts of the leadership and hardworking Soldiers of Company C continue to play a vital role towards enabling a seamless transition between U.S. forces and the Government of Iraq as the drawdown of forces under Operation New Dawn continues.