News: ‘Black Jack’ soldiers aid USAF in Joint Base Balad transition
Story by Sgt. Quentin Johnson
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – Hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines, U.S. and foreign contractors have occupied Joint Base Balad, Iraq, for more than eight years, but it officially transferred to the Iraqi government on Nov. 5.
For the 2nd Brigade Combat Team “Black Jack,” 1st Cavalry Division, assisting in the transition of JBB was done utilizing key elements of force protection and logistical operations from several battalions and collaborate efforts between soldiers and airmen.
Being the last U.S. soldiers to occupy JBB, Black Jack worked closely with the U.S. Air Force 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing to transition the base to the Iraqi government.
“Working with the Air Force was a true team effort,” said Col. John Peeler, commander of the 2/1 CAV (AAB). “Our smaller team became a larger one as we practiced the Black Jack ‘Three C’s’ of communication: collaboration, cooperation and coordination.”
Also practicing the lines of communication was the 4th Squadron, 9th U.S. Cavalry Regiment “Dark Horse,” and the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment “Red Dragons,” both with the 2/1 CAV (AAB), added Peeler.
While the Red Dragons were in place when Dark Horse arrived at JBB, August 2011, the two units immediately merged as a combined security force for the base, he said. Dark Horse troops came to JBB after transitioning COS Cobra to the Iraqi government.
The Red Dragons were stationed at JBB since May 2011. During their time there, the Red Dragons partnered with local qada leaders and the Iraqi Security Forces to provide force protection in southern Salah-ah-Din, said Lt. Col. Nate Cook, commander of the 3rd Bn., 82nd FA Regt.
“We partnered with the ISF to conduct route clearance and counter indirect-fire patrols to disrupt and defeat violent extremists within the surrounding cities,” explained Cook.
In addition to working the ISF, the Red Dragons teamed with Air Force Col. Martin Rothrock, commander of the 332nd’s Security Forces Group, to jointly secure the base, added Cook. Together, the two units provided security in and around JBB.
“The airmen handled the internal security within the base, and we handled the external security outside of it,” he said. “We analyzed the SFG's threat assessments, and they analyzed ours to determine what combat power to allocate to disrupt the enemies surrounding JBB.”
Because of the Red Dragons’ efforts, IDF attacks were prevented the last two weeks of the base transition, stated Cook. This enabled the Red Dragons to focus their attention on consolidation and transition.
Consolidation for the Red Dragons went well, he said. Since they maintained security until the last soldier departed JBB, the battalion focused on clean up efforts, making sure no sensitive items were left behind.
Also involved in the clean-up efforts was the 15th Brigade Support Battalion “Gamblers,” 2/1 CAV (AAB), as they are the logistical force behind the Black Jack brigade.
Gamblers’ mission included many moving, complex parts, explained Lt. Col. Matthew Ruedi, commander of the 15th BSB. The BSB’s logistical operations sustain six battalions spread throughout Diyala and Salah-ah-Din provinces.
While the bulk of the their work took place at JBB, the Gamblers took on additional missions in Kirkuk at Forward Operating Base Warrior, he said.
“We had forward logistical elements at FOB Warhorse and Warrior, we put liaison officers at Cobra and conducted site visits to COB Speicher,” added Ruedi.
The BSB worked closely with the AF 332nd Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, the 77th Sustainment Brigade and numerous contractors at JBB to ensure supplies were sustained throughout the base until transition was complete, stated Ruedi.
As the date of the base transition grew closer, contract support was terminated, leaving the BSB to take charge and immediately backfill key logistical sites on Balad, he said. “We took charge of operations at the supply support activity, water points and two dining facilities.”
Ruedi said taking on the extra tasks was fairly simple, as his team always remains flexible and ready to adapt to new situations.
“We always build flexibility into any plan,” he said. “We built our concepts to be agile, adaptive and flexible.”
Flexibility was key to the Gamblers’ success in transitioning multiple warehouses, numerous buildings, motor pools, living quarters, and more than eight years worth of supplies and equipment left in almost 700 containers, added Ruedi.
Cook and Ruedi agreed the completion and transition of JBB was a reflection of their soldiers’ hard work and the partnerships between Black Jack, the 332nd and government of Iraq.
“I was really thankful and pleased with the joint efforts and cooperation of the 332nd,” said Cook. “I found the ISF was very interested in the partnership, which maximized our effectiveness while we were there. They worked with us until the minute we left JBB.”
“I just want to thank the 332nd for their hard work and joint efforts in transitioning the base,” said Ruedi.
Members of the 3rd Bn., 82nd FA Regt., were the last USF to leave JBB at 10:19 a.m., Nov. 8.
Now that JBB is behind them, the commanders had these messages to leave with their soldiers.
“Congratulations Red Dragons on your successes in Iraq. I am proud of all of you,” said Cook. “Continue to maintain discipline as we head to Kuwait and back to Fort Hood.”
“Great job Gamblers. I am very appreciative of your hard work and efforts in Iraq,” stated Ruedi. “Continue to keep a positive attitude and remain mentally fit as we head back home.”