News: Lewis-McChord troops head home
Story by Spc. Raymond Quintanilla
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq – Deployed since Sept. 2009 to work with Iraqi security forces, Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade cased its colors and transferred authority to the 67th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade in a ceremony Sept. 15.
The transfer of authority signifies the closing chapter for the 201st BfSB and the start of Operation New Dawn for the 67th BfSB as they take the mission of advising, training and assisting the Iraq security forces toward building an independent infrastructure.
The 201st BfSB task force is composed of experts in signal, human and counter intelligence, fusion interrogation and critical support functions such as two aerial surveillance support elements, which provide critical information to command.
Col. Robert Whalen, a native of Tacoma, Wash., and the 201st BfSB commander said the teams are ensuring safety for the people of Iraq.
“We have experts in intelligence and target acquisitions assisting the Iraqis with security,” Whalen said, “removing public enemies from the streets and making it safe for ordinary Iraqi people and their families. This is happening 24/7.”
As Whalen spoke proudly of his soldiers, he also spoke of his most difficult experience from his tour in Iraq.
“Absolutely the hardest thing was the death of one of our soldiers, Sgt. Faith R. Hinkley was killed on Aug. 7,” Whalen said. “I really thought that we can bring all 1,000 of our troops home safely from Iraq. The last month of our deployment Hinkley was killed”
“That was without question the most crushing and devastating moment of our entire deployment,” Whalen said.
Hinkley, a native of Monte Vista, Colo., was a human intelligence collector for the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 201st BfSB who died during support operations.
Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Thornton, the 201st BfSB senior non-commissioned officer said the ISF are a competent security force.
“The Iraqis are excellent human intelligence collectors, they’re better at it than we are,” Thornton said explaining the Iraqi hometown advantage. “We provide that ‘assist’ and augment their capabilities.”
“They are way ahead to take over,” Thorton said.
Col. Philip Stemple, the 67th BfSB commander, said as the new dawn reigns, he looks forward sharing the trials and triumphs with his troops
“I know despite what comes your way, you will hurl every obstacle, meet every challenge with the tenacity and perseverance, and you will succeed,” Stemple said. “After all, day in and day out, that’s what you have done, every step of the way. That’s why, truly, all hell can’t stop us.”