By Sgt. Robert Yde
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs
BAGHDAD, Iraq – For the Soldiers of 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, change in mission has been a way of life during their current deployment in Iraq.
While the majority of the squadron is responsible for security at the entry points into the International Zone, the squadron also maintains battle space and every few months control of this battle space is rotated to a different troop.
Recently, the Soldiers of Troop A have taken over the squadron's area of operations in Baghdad's Salhiyih neighborhood, providing them their first taste of life outside the Green Zone.
"For a lot of the guys in our platoon this is our first deployment, and it's the first time that any of us have rolled out into the 'red zone,'" Spc. Jason Sparrow, a native of Louisville, Ky., said of his troop's new mission. "It's a change of scenery and a different direction. We feel like we're doing our jobs as scouts a little bit more now."
Platoon leader, 1st Lt. Brennan Mullaney said that while his Soldiers did a great job with their earlier missions, they have been eagerly awaiting their chance to spend some time out in sector.
"It's tough to put a bunch of scouts who want to be out there fighting the bad guys, so to speak, in the towers and at the FOB (Forward Operating Base) gate pulling security," he explained. "They stepped up to the plate and did a great job with all those missions, but they still wanted to be outside the wire doing what they've been training to do. Now with this new mission, we're getting to do a little bit of that."
Although the area that they are currently patrolling in Salhiyih is small and relatively quiet, Mullaney said they are making the most out of their new mission.
"Given our sector, it's not quite all kinetic operations. There's actually very little in that regard, but we're getting to interact with the people," he explained. "We're focusing on the Civil Affairs part – talking about the electricity, talking about the water and the other issues they're having in the community."
Much of the population of Salhiyih is made up of people who work inside the International Zone with either coalition forces or in one of the various ministries that are part of the Iraqi government. Mullaney said that their presence adds to the security of the area. However, while security has typically not been a problem in the area, the people still deal with infrastructure issues like most of Baghdad residents.
"The electricity and power situation is really what they're concerned with and upset with at the moment," Mullaney said. "So we've been going out and identifying which areas are the worst, and if they do alot money for some type of Civil Affairs mission that provides them with power. We can kind of tell them where that needs to be as a result of what we're doing."
Mullaney said that much of what he and his Soldiers do while in sector is leg work for possible Civil Affairs missions, including a mission to gather information on generators in the neighborhood July 16.
"We were basically looking at all the generators in the neighborhood," Mullaney explained. "Our other platoon had done the initial assessment and basically located every generator they could find, and after that we had to identify which ones were the major generators - which ones were providing power to numerous houses or a number of apartments."
His platoon visited several generators around the Salhiyih Apartment complex and met with the operators for each one. The operators were asked questions concerning hours of operations, the number of residents they were supplying power to and the rates they were charging.
Mullaney said that after talking with residents and generator operators at the Salhiyih Apartments, the assessment was something he already knew: people are not getting the amount of electricity that they would like to have or need.
"Fuel prices are very high, so as a result they don't have the fuel to run the generators as long as they would like, and it's becoming quite an issue for the people," he said. "The power is also how they get their water so these issues go hand-in-hand."
Along with working on the electricity issues in Salhiyih, the troop also has other projects in the works that they hope will continue to improve the area. Among these is a school they have just completed work on and are about to re-open.
"The school opening will be the first project that has actually come from stage one all the way to fruition," he explained. "We currently have one other school that we're just starting on in terms of refurbishing it, painting it and kind of giving it a bit of a makeover. Then the Civil Affairs team works to get them desks, computers, and that kind of stuff that they'll need."
The troop also plans to clean up a soccer field, which Mullaney said will give the children in the area somewhere else other than the streets to play.
"We'd like to get it cleaned up and try to get them some new goals and maybe some bleachers," he explained. "We'd like to provide them a place where they can actually go and take a little pride in and enjoy themselves."
In addition to working with the residents of Salhiyih, the Soldiers from Troop A are also
taking on another important mission. They are also responsible for providing security at Karkh's District Joint Security Station.
Within the troop, platoons rotate out from FOB Prosperity to the DJSS in regular intervals where they provide security for the complex and serve as the brigade's quick reactionary force if additional help is needed by a unit out in sector.
Mullaney said that the rotations to the JSS benefit his Soldiers by helping combat complacency, which sets in from doing the same mission day in and day out.
"When you're out there every day and nothing's happening, it can kind of get boring, but it still allows us to have that rotation where guys are changing up as much as possible and keeps guys on there toes," he said.
Currently, the Soldiers from Troop A are scheduled to continue with their new mission well into the fall. But regardless of what happens, Mullaney said they are just trying to do what they can while they can to improve the lives of residents in Salhiyih.
"We're not really looking at time lines in terms of when we'll give it up or how long we'll have it, we're just trying to do as much as we can now while we have it and make sure we're making the most of our time out in the neighborhoods," he said. "The guys are excited to be out there doing what we're doing now, so we're just trying to take it and embrace the new mission and do the best that we possibly can."
This work, Cavalry troops take on new mission in Salhiyih, by SGT Robert Yde, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.