News: New Iraqi tanker unit takes the lead
By Capt. David Franklin
TAJI, Iraq — Just before dawn, an Iraqi officer approached Soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Regiment, and began pointing at the nearest U.S. vehicle.
Using a simple gesture and stating one Arabic word, "Mutarjim," meaning interpreter, the Iraqi officer asked if the U.S. forces had brought one and if they were ready to begin the mission.
The Iraqi officer from 5th Iraqi Tank Battalion needed the interpreter so he could communicate with his counterpart, 1st Lt. Erich Roush, a native of Milwaukee, who is a platoon leader in Troop C. Roush and his Soldiers had been ordered to conduct a combined search with the Iraqi tankers for weapons in a small area along the Tigris River.
Roush said this was the first time he and his platoon had worked with the Iraqi tank battalion on a mission. For many of the Iraqis, this was their first time on a combat patrol.
"They're really raw," said Roush. "It's their first time out."
What some of the Iraqi soldiers lacked in experience, however, they made up for in enthusiasm, eagerly taking the lead as their American counterparts remained a short distance behind in a supporting role.
The Iraqi soldiers searched homes in the area and as the patrol progressed, it became apparent to Roush and his troops that the Iraqis were executing the mission as planned.
"They maintained good organization," said Roush. "They have good leadership."
Very few issues surfaced as the combined forces moved from house to house.
After searching the home of one local man, the Iraqi soldiers continued down the road to another gate only to be greeted by the same man; a second entrance to his property.
They then continued to the next home, where they were welcomed with food and chai tea. Shortly after, both units turned and began to head back to where they started, the Iraqis again taking the lead.
Though no weapons were found by the end of the patrol, Roush declared the mission a success because the Iraqi tankers had remained enthusiastic and had completed the mission with a sense of confidence.
"We've got to let them lead from the front."