Story by Staff Sgt. Tanya Thomas, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, United States Division-Center Public Affairs
Al Anbar, Iraq – Soldiers of the 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division are packing their bags and preparing to return to Fort Stewart, Ga., as they near the completion of their yearlong deployment to Iraq. The team of roughly 3,000 Soldiers supported the Iraqi Security Forces and local Anbar government during the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom and into Operation New Dawn.
Although the 4th AAB, 3rd Inf. Div. deployment is coming to a close, their mission to advise, train, and assist the ISF in the Al Anbar province will remain, and will be carried out by the paratroopers of the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, who have recently begun arriving in the region.
“The 2nd Bde., 82nd Abn. will do all the same missions we have been doing,” said Lt. Col. Edward Houston, deputy commander of 4th AAB, 3rd Inf. Div. “They will partner with Iraqi security forces to continue the ISF strengthening efforts. They will also continue to assist ISF in targeting violent extremists through the sharing of intelligence, continue to partner with and support the State Department's Provincial Reconstruction Team, and finally, they will continue the re-posturing and base closure efforts until the departure of U.S. Forces at the end of this year.”
Houston said that over the past year, the 4th AAB has made a notable impact in strengthening their Iraqi partners.
"We want to provide (2nd Bde., 82nd Abn.) with as much knowledge and our lessons learned so they can continue the mission from this point forward,” he said.
That learning process is more commonly known as ‘relief in place,’ where Soldiers work alongside their replacing unit, and in this case, conduct advise, train and assist operations throughout the Anbar province. At Al Asad Air Base, one major operation is Tadreeb al Shamil—or TaS—which in Arabic means, “all inclusive training.” The month-long rotation – which is often compared to the U.S. Army’s National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. – has been in effect in Anbar since January.
The Anbar TaS mission will continue as Vanguard departs and Soldiers of the 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Bde., 82nd Abn. Div., are already on the training lanes learning the ropes.
“Once our counterparts arrived, they were quickly integrated into the TaS training cycle and observed the platoon and company-level live-fire exercise as we completed the May rotation” said Capt. Curtis Brooker, commander of Company A, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th AAB, 3rd Inf. Div. “We plan to be with them in some capacity throughout all the training events in this next rotation. This way they can see all the training events, and know how we interact with our Iraqi Army counterparts. My goal for the 2nd Bde., 82nd Abn. Div. is to take advantage of the opportunity to help build a well-trained Iraqi Army. I would like a seamless transition with no degradation of mission or affect on the Iraqi Army Soldier’s training.”
The 4th AAB has not only trained and advised the ISF physically, but combined intelligence operations have helped Soldiers of the Brigade Special Troops Battalion to further develop their Iraq partners.
“We have spent a great deal of time training and mentoring Iraqi intelligence professionals in the nuances of successful intelligence operations,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Ercolani, executive officer of B Company, BSTB. “We have covered a myriad of topics with our partners, which includes, signals intelligence, human intelligence, and creating fusion of different intelligence products. The products that our Fusion and Geospatial Intelligence sections developed for the brigade were also released and shared by Stability and Transition Team members on a daily basis with their Iraqi partners. These products directly contributed to the capture of several high value targets and the products also helped our Iraqi partners develop a better understanding of the violent extremist networks working in their operating environment.”
And that has been carried over to the incoming unit.
“Throughout the RIP process, our 2-82 counterparts have been extremely enthusiastic in pursuing our current initiatives and we anticipate their adoption of many of our (procedures),” he said.
For Vanguard, the RIP is all about setting the incoming airborne Soldiers up for success as they will soon take the reins and assume partnered operations Al Anbar.
“The 2-82 is a great unit with superb Soldiers and leaders,” said Houston. “They have a very proud and distinguished lineage they will build on during their deployment to Anbar province and in support of Operation New Dawn. At all levels the Vanguard Brigade is focused on transferring our knowledge and experience from the last 12 months in Iraq to our RIP partners so they can be more successful in accomplishing their mission. Their success is our success.”