News: ISF cell work behind scenes to help 'Dragon' brigade fulfill its mission
Story by Spc. Shantelle Campbell
TIKRIT, Iraq – Almost every successful operation or organization is composed of the ones who constantly work in the spotlight and of the ones who silently work behind the scenes.
Maj. Joel Benefiel and Sgt. 1st Class Kimberly D. McMillan, the officer and non-commissioned officer in charge of the Iraqi Security Forces Cell with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, out of Fort Riley, Kan., work behind the scenes.
The two Soldiers effectively work, with other members of their cell, and brigade and division Stability Transition Teams to gather and disseminate pertinent information about the ISF within the Salah ad-Din province to the brigade commander and staff sections – such as the operations and intelligence sections.
"There are a lot of ways in which we support the brigade commander's objectives for Salah ad Din," said Benefiel, a Naples, Fla., native. "The first way is that we help to provide a centralized element able to collect information regarding all elements of ISF; and then, disseminate it to the brigade staff, the 4th Brigade Special Troops battalion, the STTs and more importantly, interact with the division staff in order to assist them with understanding the environment in Salah ad Din … The other ways that we support the brigade are through our ability to facilitate VIP meetings between elements of the brigade commander, staff, the Salah ad Din Provincial Reconstruction Team and Iraqi key leaders from within the province. We do that with our interaction with the [Base Defense Operations Center] and the [the Regional Support Group]."
Since deploying to the Salah ad Din province in the fall of 2009, members of the ISF cell have not only provided important information about the ISF, but have helped coordinate significant events such as the Transfer of Partnership ceremony where many of the brigade's Iraqi counterparts attended to see the 'Dragon' brigade assume responsibility of the province from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, out of Hawaii last October. The cell also helped coordinate a conference between the ISF and Peshmerga and the opening of the Iraqi Air Force Academy at Contingency Operating Base Speicher.
"This was a [big] learning experience for me," said McMillan, a St. Pauls, N.C., native, of her first deployment and working at the ISF Cell. "I learned a lot as far as how the Iraqis operate, what stage of training that they're at, how much we've taught them and how much involvement we've put towards [helping them build a stronger security force]."
With the brigade preparing for redeployment, Benefiel and McMillan said that they both look forward to the future and are both appreciative of the lessons that have been learned and the bonds that have been formed within their office.
"The difference between this brigade and the last brigade I worked for is as different as night and day as far as the staff level," said Benefiel. "This assignment has made me a better officer and has helped to better prepare me for a position as a battalion S-3 or executive officer. This has allowed me to be able to step in those shoes and hit the ground running. My goal is to always improve and do a good job for whoever I work for and with."
"I'm not going to say that I'm going to miss certain people, because I'm pretty sure that we'll keep in contact," said McMillan. "So, I'm not going to say, 'Goodbye.' Instead, I'll say, 'I'll see you later.'"