News: Gauntlet transfers authority to Spartans
By Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
MULTI-NATIONAL DIVISION - CENTER, Iraq – Soldiers from the 720th Military Police Battalion transferred authority over to the 793rd Military Police Battalion during a ceremony held May 14 on Camp Stryker.
For the 720th MP Bn., known as the Gauntlet, out of Fort Hood, Texas, this was its third deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. They responded on a short notice to deploy March 2007 in support of a police transition team (PTT) mission in the Multi-National Division – Center area of operation.
In their place now, the 793rd MP Bn., known as the Spartans, from Bamberg, Germany, will continue the same mission. This includes training Iraqi Police in detainee operations, searching techniques, weapon marksmanship, police investigations and equipment accountability.
During his speech, Lt. Col. Frank Y. Rangel, 720th MP Bn. commander, described arriving to Camp Stryker. His military policemen arrived here with no vehicles, buildings without doors and windows and a communications cell that still needed to be set in motion.
"But we had one secret weapon which would ensure success in overcoming our many challenges," Rangel said. "That is, we had Soldiers."
Rangel spoke with pride of those MP Soldiers willing to work harder for the benefit of their unit's success.
"These Soldiers compiled a record of achievement and success that boggles the mind," he said. "Day in and day out they mounted their rides to work at the Iraqi Police stations, secured the venues for their principals, or turned a wrench or fixed a radio ... all the while the threat of an IED or indirect fire loomed just a moment away."
Throughout this mission, the 720th MP Bn. travelled nearly 1.8 million miles on some of the most dangerous roads, in the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world to develop a police force capable and worthy of the Iraqi people, said Col. Mark Spindler, 18th MP Brigade commander.
The 720th was assigned to the 18th MP Bde. while deployed to Iraq under the operational control of the 3rd Infantry Division in MND-C.
"This battalion was a surge unit ... that, without exaggeration, broke the enemy's back and momentum, and gave back to the Government of Iraq the chance to regain control," Spindler said.
For the 793rd MP Bn., their transition process into Camp Stryker was much different since they had Gauntlet Soldiers to learn from, benefitting from the infrastructure set in place before their arrival.
"We fully intend to take all the progress that's been made over the past 15 months by the 720th MP Battalion and begin building on that," said Lt. Col. Michael Blahovec, 793rd MP Bn. commander. "Fortunately we got to spend the better part of the last three weeks working with their staff and leadership and getting out to see all of the units they support."
During the ceremony, Rangel and Command Sergeant Major Jerry A. Craig cased the 720th MP Bn. colors to symbolize their relief. Their unit will redeploy back to Fort Hood, Texas.
Following them, Blahovec and Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Hodges moved forward and uncased the 793rd MP Bn. colors to complete the transfer of authority.
Blahovac said he looks forward to working in various support and command and control relationships with the 3rd Infantry Division units, from brigade combat team level to company level.
He said his main goal for this deployment is to get things going with the Iraqi people, eventually with the goal of turning things over to IP and give their people a safe and secure environment.
The 793rd MP Bn. has been deployed once before to Iraq in support of OIF during 2004 and 2005.
"We wish you Godspeed and safety as you assume the fight," Rangel said to his unit's replacement.