News: Dragon commander discusses road home
Story by Spc. Shantelle Campbell
TIKRIT, Iraq – Col. Hank Arnold, commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, out of Fort Riley, Kan., addressed Kansas-based media during a teleconference, May 5, about the unit's upcoming redeployment.
Since deploying to the Salah ad-Din province, last fall, Soldiers in the "Dragon" brigade have worked alongside Iraqi security forces and the government of Iraq to continue providing security and stability for the province and have set the conditions for a successful transition of U.S. forces out of Iraq.
"We've been very successful in our time here and in our mission to advise, assist and enable our Iraqi partners," said Arnold during the teleconference. [There has been] significant improvements in the governance, economic and social development, rule of law and security.
"We continue to transition from full spectrum operations to stability operations where the Iraqis are in the lead," he added. "Currently, almost all security-related operations are conducted unilaterally by the Iraqi security forces."
Following the successful parliamentary elections in March, the brigade shifted its concentration to returning military bases to the Iraqi government. According to Arnold, the Soldiers of the "Dragon" brigade once operated from 18 different forward operating bases and combat outposts throughout the province. By the end of April, the brigade had returned 11 of those bases to the GOI.
Though this deployment is significantly less violent than the brigade's previous deployment to Baghdad during the surge, Arnold said that steps are still being taken to make sure the unit has a successful redeployment.
"Once we return home, the model is that we take a four-day pass," said Arnold. "Then, there's what we call the reverse redeployment process where we begin to check [Soldiers' mental, emotional and social health]."
The outcome of countless sacrifices is something that many veterans don't get the chance to see. To conclude the teleconference, Arnold expressed his gratitude for his Soldiers and for the Soldiers who lost their lives fighting in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"For those who have had multiple rotations over here and [have seen] people that we worked with get killed and hurt, it feels good deep down inside to have that satisfaction that the sacrifice was worth it in the sense that we accomplished what we set out to do," Arnold said.
"[The families] should be very, very proud of what their Soldiers from Fort Riley have done here," he added.