COMBAT OUTPOST NIMIR, Iraq – Since Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom began the U.S. Army has been constantly redefining its role on the battlefield.
Part of that means that Soldiers have to be flexible, prepared to quickly adapt to changing conditions and rely upon the relationships they have built to accomplish their mission.
Sgt. Jeff Burns, a 22 year-old cavalry scout with Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kan., joined the Army in 2005 and deployed with the "Dragon Brigade" during the unit's first deployment as part of the surge in 2007. He is currently deployed with the unit again and back in Iraq.
The "Raiders" operate in the Nineveh province in Iraq, separate from the rest of the "Dragon" Brigade, and a large part of their mission is keeping a close eye on the Syria-Iraq border.
"[We're] trying to catch people trying to come across at night, using the darkness for cover. We try to cover as much area as we can while we're out there," the Pittston, Pa., native said.
They normally patrol an area that spans 20 to 30 thousand kilometers. Where the Soldiers can't see, they rely upon air support in the form of unmanned aerial vehicles or helicopters that help keep any eye out for illegal border crossings. The main objective is to prevent smugglers and foreign fighters from coming across the border into Iraq.
Burns said he has made a lot of good friends among both his fellow U.S. Soldiers and his Iraqi counterparts during this mission, and that camaraderie is part of what makes his Army experience great.
"Once you get past a certain point, everyone realizes we're all on the same team. We all understand why we're here and what we have to do," he said. "The people we met here were real good. Some of them would give you the shirt of their back if you needed it."
Despite the friendships he's made here, Burns can't wait to get home to his wife Cheyenne, daughter Kendall and son Wyatt, who are back at Fort Riley awaiting his return.
"I was excited when I was told I was going there because there are a lot of opportunities to go hunting, fishing and camping," Burns said.
He keeps in touch with his family and friends with messaging and video calls on the internet. He says his four-year-old daughter Kendall is constantly planning activities for them when he returns home.
"She's kind of in the planning phase," he said. "Every time I talk to her she tells me the new stuff we're going to do together when I get home."
Burns is staying focused on the mission at hand though. That mission is transitioning from patrolling the border to assisting with security at combined checkpoints where Iraqi soldiers work side-by-side with the Peshmerga, or Kurdish security forces. These checkpoints also screen for smugglers, weapons and terrorist movements.
It's all part of an ever-changing mission environment and as U.S. forces continue to draw down and turn over bases in Iraq they continue to adapt. For Burns seeing first-hand the changes in this country is something he has enjoyed.
"I've done a lot of fun stuff that I never would have been able to do had I not joined and overall I think it's definitely been a rewarding experience for me and [it's] something I've been glad I did," he said.
This work, Cavalry Scout adapts with changing mission, by SSG Richard Colletta, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.