CAMP TAJI, Iraq — Around a U-shaped table piled with a traditional Iraqi dinner of chicken, curry, and bread, Soldiers with 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment's command group met with their new Iraqi army counterparts, whom they will be working with over the next year to secure the area of Tarmiyah.
The dinner, held Jan. 10 at an IA compound just outside Camp Taji, celebrated the redeployment of 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division and welcomed elements of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division into the area.
The previous unit created a bond with the IA that allowed the commander of the 36th Brigade, 9th IA Division to greet Lt. Col. Richard Heyward, commander of 2nd Sdn., 1st Cav. Regt. and his staff with open arms.
"I will keep working with them as one team," said IA Brig. Gen. Ala'a.
During the evening, awards were exchanged between units as signs of thanks and appreciation.
Col. Tobin Green, commander of 1st Bde., 1st Cav. Div., gave a special set of gold riding spurs, usually given to a cavalry Soldier who has deployed to a combat zone, to Ala'a to thank him for his friendship and partnership.
"[Brig.] Gen. Ala'a, specifically, has been the brigade commander for at least four years," said Heyward. "It shows senior leadership has faith and competence that he's doing things the right way."
The 2nd Sdn., 1st Cav. Regt. originally settled at Camp Striker, but transferred here to assume a larger area of responsibility, part of the overall responsible drawdown of U.S. forces within Iraq.
"The brigade commander and staff came up with a course of action requiring the least amount of movement for units with the brigade," said Heyward. "We're one of those units that was instructed to assume a new area of operations."
With their new operational environment, the squadron hopes to leave an IA that is fully capable, providing all the security, and independent of any of U.S. assistance.
"We're here to provide enablers and show them how to use those enablers and to train specific requirements at the request of our partners," said Heyward, quoting the brigade commander, Col. John Norris. "It's very obvious [the Iraqi army is] in the lead in terms of intelligence collection and conducting operations and we're really here to facilitate that."
Heyward hopes that the IA continues to represent the people the best they can and provides the services and support the local populace's needs.
"It's not a matter of starting up from nothing," said Heyward; "It's enhancing their capabilities."