CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq – Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Carey, the senior enlisted leader of U.S. Army Forces Command, took advantage of an opportunity to visit with 4th Infantry Division Soldiers at Forward Operating Base War Eagle, which is located in the somewhat infamous Sadr City District of Baghdad.
Accompanied by Command Sgt. Maj. John Gioia, the senior enlisted leader for Multi-National Division – Baghdad and the 4th Inf. Div., he sat down and met with the brigade’s senior enlisted leaders; afterward, he met with another large gathering, this time with the brigade’s Soldiers at the Rosenberg Cafe.
“The timing of his visit is important as we begin to close out this deployment,” said Gioia. “As we prepare to celebrate our second Christmas away from home here in Baghdad, it was a prime opportunity for him to share his concerns on redeployment safety with our Soldiers.”
After a quick flight to FOB War Eagle, he told the assembled senior enlisted leaders they should be proud of their accomplishments.
“You guys have a phenomenal record,” Carey told his fellow senior enlisted leaders. “Even the president thumps his chest on what you guys did in Sadr City. You have done a phenomenal job – and my hat is off to you.”
With that, Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey, the senior enlisted leader of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., took the floor and began his brief on current operations in the brigade’s operational environment. Before he commenced, he had each of the enlisted leaders introduce themselves to Carey.
Dailey’s thorough briefing covered a variety of topics, ranging from the brigade’s initial mission and how it has changed as time passed, how it is structured with the various units it has attached and detached. The unit’s mission, he explained, has been varied and dynamic.
Perhaps one of the key successes of the brigade was how thoroughly it has been able to integrate its forces with local Iraqi Security Forces. This integration began in the area due to sheer necessity, said Dailey, in part due to the huge population of the local area. In the Sadr City district of Baghdad alone, there are 2.4 million people, which is approximately 40 percent of the population of Baghdad.
“We have been partnered with them since we got here,” said Dailey, in speaking about the Iraqi Army soldiers of the 11th IA Division. “We actually live with these Soldiers; we eat and dine with them; we maneuver with them. They are one of the newer divisions in the IA – and they are doing very well.”
Carey asked Daily how the National Police are in the local area, to which Daily answered that the NPs are doing excellent and handed the floor over to Command Sgt. Maj. John Kurak, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment.
Kurak said the National Policemen have improved tremendously since the battalion’s arrival, explaining that the unit was at a basic level pretty consistent with most of the ISF in the beginning prior to “March Madness,” which was the outbreak of violence in the Sadr City district earlier in the year.
“At the end, we saw quite an increase in their willingness and ability to go out and conduct operations,” said Kurak, explaining that toward the end of the outbreak of the violence, as the area became more stable, the NPs stepped forward and began conducing independent operations in the area.
Daily explained that his Soldiers work very closely with the IA, IP and NP in the area, adding that in large part it is because of where the Soldiers live and operate.
“The entire brigade stays within the city,” he explained. “All my Soldiers live in the COPs and JSSs. We are out there where things happen. I think we’re on the right path, and I think that we are postured for the next unit to replace us.”
Among the many successes he briefed Carey on included refurbishing of 40 schools in the area, opening or refurbishing three swimming pools, seven complete health clinics and the Jamilla Market, to the installation of solar lights and improved security.
Another initiative he spoke of was the removal of all of the wire in the local area.
“Remove all the wire in Sadr City was an MND-B initiative,” he said. “It was a huge task, but it provides a sense of normalcy for the people. It no longer looks like a battle zone.”
At the end of the briefing it was time for Carey to share an impromptu briefing of his own as he shared his views of what is going on around the force. And, given that the brigade and the division are nearing the end of their 15-month tours, he shared his concerns with his fellow enlisted leaders and provided guidance on some of the issues they will face upon their return.
A piece of advice that may sound simple was enough to give the gathered leaders pause for a moment.
“When you go back, you need to realize that the Army has changed, HRC has changed, and Fort Carson and Fort Hood have changed,” he said, adding that, of course, the Soldiers themselves have changed as well.
While Soldiers are deployed, perhaps one of their most stabilizing forces is looking forward to a time where they can return home back to their Families and communities. However, this process is often fraught with new challenges in and of itself.
“You are going to have a lot of challenges when you get back,” said Carey. “We have a really great fighting Army, but I’m concerned about what we’ve got when they are not fighting.”
The Army has been proactive in attempting to face the issues that confront some of its returning warriors, such as vehicle accidents, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, divorce, infidelity, sexual assault, financial issues, and just about any other issue that our society faces.
“I know doing 15 months is hard – but heck, after eight or nine months back in the states, you might be saying ‘Man, I wish I were back there,'” he joked, before turning serious on his concern for the health and welfare of his returning Soldiers.
He said there are quite a few significant challenges the Army is facing with redeploying Soldiers back at home station that don’t necessarily exist while deployed. Perhaps the key difference is that while deployed, the squad leaders, platoon sergeants, first sergeants and sergeants major are there with them, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. As such, it is vital to keep an eye on Soldiers once they return as well.
“In some aspects, you have it easier here. It may not seem like that, but it’s true,” he said. “Okay, take out the rockets and the IEDs or the small-arms attacks and all that, and you’ve got it pretty easy here because you’ve got these guys under your wing.”
It is when returning to Fort Carson or Fort Hood that issues will arise, he continued. It is a leadership challenge that will require as much work and dedication as was committed to preparing Soldiers for war.
“That’s when the hard work is going to start,” he added. “Any first sergeant or sergeant major who says ‘I’ve seen everything,’ hasn’t seen anything until he’s returned from a 15 month deployment.”
He also wanted to make another point quite clear for his gathered leaders – the mission continues. Although the end may be in sight in Iraq, it still remains to be seen in Afghanistan.
As to what the leaders could expect in the future, he was quite blunt and forthright:
“If any of you think you’re not going to Afghanistan, I guess that means that you are planning on retiring when you get back,” he said. “All bets are off. It’s persistent conflict, and the enemy gets a vote. This is going to keep going, and you all need to understand that.”
Following his brief, he headed over to meet with the brigade’s Soldiers at the packed Rosenberg Cafe.
“The most important thing that the Army has is sitting in this room – and that’s you Soldiers,” said Carey, after a brief introduction. “Everyone is proud of the job you have done and continue to do.”
He spoke with the Soldiers about a wide variety of subjects but returned to a recurring theme of what he spoke to their enlisted leaders about.
“We need you,” he said. “We need you to stay healthy. It’s easier to take care of each other here than it is when you get back to home station, but I need you to take care of each other at home station as well.
“That sergeant, that lieutenant, that first sergeant who is watching over you here is not going to be there 24-7 when you redeploy.”
As such, he emphasized the importance of the Soldiers helping to take care of each other – which is what Soldiers do.
He also told the Soldiers that they should be proud of their accomplishments and the accomplishments of their unit. It is also important, he added, for them to share their experiences and tell their fellow Americans what they did while deployed in service of their nation.
In closing, he wished the Soldiers a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season and thanked them for their service.
“Take care of yourself. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you,” he said. “You are keeping your Families safe by being here. I’d rather be fighting here than in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Let’s fight them here and not at home.
“Good luck and God speed.”
Carey serves as the 15th command sergeant major of U.S. Army Forces Command, a position he has served since Jan. 25, 2006. His previous assignments as a command sergeant major include serving as the senior enlisted leader for XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C. and Multi-National Corps – Iraq; with the Combined Joint Task Force 180 in Afghanistan; and with the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum, N.Y.
By Sgt. Maj. Eric Lobsinger