Story and photo by Spc. William A. Joeckel, 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD-C
BAGHDAD—In the dark early morning hours, a dismounted patrol leaves a small joint security station in Baghdad, Iraq. Soldiers walk down shadowy alleyways and streets, scanning rooftops and windows, all the while watching their comrades’ backs. Two Apache helicopters orbit overhead to provide support for the partnered patrol of Iraqi and U.S. forces.
This is a normal day for the Soldiers with Company B, 1st “Vanguard” Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division – Center and their 11th Iraqi Army Division counterparts at Joint Security Station Old MoD, where nearly every patrol is led by Iraqi Army Soldiers.
“The 11th IA Div. has come a long way since I’ve been here in the last seven months,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Speris, an infantryman and a squad leader with Company B, 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt. and a Fairfield, Calif., native. “They have set training standards, and now they take the lead on joint patrols.”
On the joint missions, Iraqi Soldiers are always in the lead vehicles or walking in the front of a foot patrol. They are the first to check a suspicious area, inspect a vehicle, and communicate with local residents.
With the U.S. Army taking an advisory role and the Iraqi Soldiers being the face of continued security, the Soldiers with Company B can focus on the details that will help streamline the 11th IA Div.
“If I’m working with a good group of guys who I know want to be there, I can provide them encouragement, but occasionally some of the Soldiers wait for our input before they do something,” said Speris.
Some of that comes from Soldiers with the 11th IA Div still getting to know the area they are operating in. This isn’t a major problem and can be corrected, said 2nd Lt. Joel Trinidad, a platoon leader with Company B, 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt. and a New York City native.
“A few of the Iraqi Soldiers need some tweaking, and I can work with that,” he said. “One problem they have is basic map reading skills and knowing locations, [as] a lot of them are not from this particular area.”
One of the beneficial tools that the Soldiers with Company B employ is an After-Action Review, performed at the end of every joint patrol. Many times the brief is done between the platoon leaders, but junior enlisted Soldiers have begun to participate in the meetings.
“I have seen improvement from some of the Iraqi platoons that have done patrols with us and, subsequently, had critiques made during the AAR,” said Trinidad.
Due to the close quarters and the everyday contact between members of each Army, there is a “one team, one fight” mentality at JSS Old MoD.
“There are some guys I enjoy working with, since we assist in their training, it’s cool being able to work alongside the Soldiers that you advised, you feel like those guys are a little bit better because you know how they work and they know how you work,” said Speris.