By Spc. Nathaniel Smith
4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division
BAGHDAD – Few people would volunteer to be away from their families for fourteen months if they did not believe it was going to be for a good cause.
That's exactly what the Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, did; for most of those long, hard months, the Dragons went toe-to-toe with various extremists to provide Iraqi citizens with enough security that hope begins to grow.
Col. Ricky Gibbs, commander of Task Force Dragon, said the 99 Soldiers who sacrificed all did not die in vain.
"Our reputation in Rashid is pretty good; every citizen I've talked to says they trust us," the Austin, Texas, native said. "The Iraqi citizens will tell you they're very happy about the quality of life improvements we've made."
In addition to providing security for an area with 1.2 million people, some of the quality of life improvements include spending more than $200 million to grow the Doura market from 15 shops to more than 700, the revitalization of Airplane Road and the resettlement of Saydiyah.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Champagne, the senior non-commissioned officer of the 4th IBCT, said the accomplishments of his troops will be a fond memory for him to look back on.
"One of the highlights of this deployment is being a part of a team that was built and deployed within 12 months," said the native of Springfield, Mass., "and seeing the success and impact that our Soldiers had on the Rashid, Monsour and Rustimiyah Districts, during one of the most volatile times in Baghdad, Iraq."
With the success the "Dragon" Brigade has had in areas like Doura, an al-Qaida in Iraq-infested hotbed once called the "Heart of Darkness," some are cautiously optimistic about the continued stability of the region. However, Gibbs said he believes the momentum that has been created can be built on by his unit's replacement, the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, which is based out of Fort Hood, Texas.
"I am not concerned about this thing falling apart; I feel confident in what we've done," he said. "I feel confident in what the Iraqi people have seen us do, and they're very supportive of what we're doing."
Champagne added that what his troops have accomplished, and the selflessness required by them to make those accomplishments, will be something he carries with him as he goes home.
"I'll share with my family that the brigade made a huge difference in Baghdad," he said. "Most importantly, I'll share the story of those Soldiers who we lost during the Baghdad surge so that they fully understand their service and sacrifice to our country."
Gibbs said his resolve to defeat the insurgency in Iraq has been strengthened through his fourteen months in the capital.
"Regardless of what they do, they cannot win; they can punch at us, but they can't beat us," he said, of the extremists who attack military and civilian targets alike. "The National police are better than when we arrived, and the Iraqi army is better than when we arrived. They may take a shot, but there's nothing they can do to beat us."
This work, Dragons ready to furl wings, by SSG Nathaniel Smith, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.