News: 15 months later: Red Lions head for Fort Lewis home
by Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp
1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – The 1st "Red Lion" Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment currently attached to the 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Regiment will soon be "pulling up stakes" and leaving Iraq after 15 months in country.
The battalion, which is home stationed out of Fort Lewis, Wash., as part of the 3rd "Arrowhead" Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, spent two-thirds of its 15 in theater with the Ironhorse Brigade on Taji.
Over the course of their deployment, the Red Lions changed their area of operations four times. The battalion operated in areas as far north as Mosul, Talafar and Qayyarah in their first five months. While with the Ironhorse Brigade, Red Lion troops patrolled in Husayniyah, Mushahida, Intasar, Boob Al Sham and a host of other villages.
"We've had a good ride with the Ironhorse Brigade and from day one they treated us as though we were family," said Lt. Col. Ken Kamper, commander of the Red Lion battalion. "Our time with Ironhorse has been very successful and very memorable."
During their tour of duty with the Ironhorse Brigade, the battalion conducted many joint patrols with Iraqi army troops from both the 2nd Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division (Mechanized) and the 1st Battalion, 3rd Bde., 6th IA Div. as well as Macedonian troops from the Macedonian Special Forces "Wolves" Battalion.
Working side-by-side with their partners, the Red Lions detained hundreds of suspected insurgents and found numerous weapons caches. They also assisted Iraqi security forces in the capture of several high-ranking al-Qaida cell leaders and members of the Jaysh al-Madhi Army.
"Looking back, we've done a lot of good towards helping the Iraqi people, who want their freedom, to get rid of insurgents who are trying to pollute their society," said Sgt. Orlando Dieppa of Headquarters Battery, 1st Bn., 37th FA Regt., who hails from Puerto Rico.
In late January, the Red Lions teamed with Iraqi troops from the 5th Special Troops Company and engineers from the 92nd Engineer Battalion to knock down several buildings in Husayniyah to prevent their further use by insurgents operating in the area and to improve security for local residents.
Along with joint operations and partnering with Iraqi security forces, the battalion built relationships with local leaders, tribal sheiks and the people in the villages in which the unit patrolled.
Red Lion Soldiers went door-to-door visiting Iraqi people in each of the neighborhoods within the villages that they were operating. They would gather census information to assist the government along with seeing how the people were doing and what their concerns were.
The unit also brought health care events to residents of the villages as well as participated in projects for schools in Intasar and Boob Al Sham among many other villages.
In two successive incidents in February, Red Lions played a direct role in saving the lives of villagers who had been injured. In the first, the battalion's troops rushed a two-year-old boy, who received severe burns after knocking milk off his mother's stove, to the Muleskinner Medical Clinic on Camp Taji, Feb. 7. The boy was subsequently flown to the 28th Coalition Support Hospital in Baghdad after receiving treatment on Taji.
While operating out of a Joint Security Station, troopers from Battery C received reports from concerned citizens that enemy mortars were being fired on the village of Mzerat Feb. 14 and came on the scene to investigate. Medics with the unit immediately began treating eight local Iraqi civilians, including children, injured in the attack.
"Our 15 months in country were very long and it was quite an experience, but it was worth it because we were helping the Iraqi people," said Sgt. 1st Class Sheldon Fant of Battery C, who hails from Anderson, S.C., reflecting on the unit's many humanitarian aid missions. "We've accomplished a lot towards that goal and that's what this deployment was all about."
In the months of June and July, Red Lion's senior leadership facilitated reconciliation meetings between Sunni and Shia leaders within their area of operations, resulting in the establishment of Iraqi security volunteer programs which are now showing definite success in improving security, according to Kamper.
"These were monumental meetings, and one of the key things has been that each of the tribal leaders pledged themselves to support the Iraqi government and to resist al Qaida and militias," Kamper said, explaining that getting the support of tribal leaders in the reconciliation process played a significant role in influencing local, every day Iraqi citizens to share in that process.
Some of the Red Lions' most recent work has involved their assisting Iraqi army troops from the 2nd Bde., 9th IA Div. (Mech.) as they worked with Iraqi security volunteers at traffic control points near Taji.
For Sgt. Lou Pauquette, a team leader for the Red Lion's Battery C, this deployment has had a very profound affect on his Soldiers.
"I know that a lot of them came out here as young kids but I think they've grown up a lot and have learned to take life more seriously," said Pauqette, who hails from Granville, N.Y., and received a purple heart due to wounds received after hitting an improvised explosive device in his Humvee earlier in the deployment. "When they get home they'll take more advantage of the things life has to offer them and they definitely won't be taking it for granted."
Another Red Lion Soldier, Spc. Jason Currie of Battery B, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, who received an Army Commendation Medal, with "V" device for valor, due to actions taken after a Humvee caught fire in an enemy attack, reflected on fallen comrades.
"It's truly been an honor to serve my country and my unit and it's good to be able to answer the call for your nation," said Currie. "I just wish that the guys we lost this deployment could be here with us to share in our homecoming. They're the real heroes and the ones who made the real sacrifices that led to the success of this deployment."
Prior to the Red Lion's departure, Col. Paul E. Funk II, commander, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, said it was important for him to impart some words of gratitude to the battalion's troopers during an award ceremony held in their honor Sept. 6.
"Thanks for your hard work, service and dedication," said Funk, who also explained that the Red Lions motto of "On the minute," rang true throughout the deployment. "Everytime we needed you, you were there. You have shown true valor."
"The mark of a good unit is that it leaves its area better than when (it arrived) and you have done that four times (during your deployment)," added Funk. "You are a very professional organization and your Soldiers did what was right even when no one was looking. You were tenacious as hell with a fixed resolve to never quit."
In a separate awards ceremony on the same day as Funk's visit, Col. Stephen Townsend, commander of the Arrowhead Brigade, visited with his Red Lion troopers.
"You have manned the walls and stood watch in the dark and kept your honor...I extremely proud of you," said Townsend. "Our nation has asked more of your generation than of any other generation in history...to be in continuous combat like you have been."
"You will be able to tell plenty of stories to your grand kids and you will be able to look back and be proud and justifiably so," he added.
The Red Lions transferred authority of their area of operations to Soldiers from the Fires "Hell" Battalion, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment based out of Grafenwoehr, Germany, during a replacement in place / transfer of authority ceremony held here Sept. 8.
Date Posted:09.11.2007 09:10
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