Spc. Grant T. Okubo
4th IBCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE RUSTAMIYAH, Iraq- Field Artillery Soldiers from 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division put out welcome mats and greeted their Iraqi Army counterparts to Forward Operating Base Rustamiyah for a tour and luncheon, Jan.20.
Lt. Col. Dennis Yates, Chesterfield, N.J., native and commander, 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery, along with his staff met with the leaders of the Iraqi Army (IA) operating in Zafaraniya, including Iraqi Col. Ahmed Ehbrahim Bedor, battalion commander, 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division.
The leaders met for lunch to discuss and coordinate plans for operations for the next 60 to 90 days that will help bring peace to the people of Zafaraniya, said Maj. Steve Smith, Covington, Ky., native and Military Transition Team advisor attached to the IA’s 1st Bn., 4th Bde., 1st Div. Smith explained the goal set for the meeting was identify the most influential sheikhs in the area, who are actively involved with local government officials.
Yates said Bedor and his battalion are responsible for military operations through half of Zafaraniya, while 5th Bn., 25th FA runs the other half. Therefore, having coordinating operations discussions is very important, stated Yates. Also Bedor’s battalion is the only Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) unit in Baghdad that has their own battle space, so that is another reason why coordination with them is very important, he explained.
“The second reason we met was to just build a sense of trust,” said Yates. “We tend to visit them in their house, so to speak, their headquarters building all the time, but never return the favor.
“I wanted to bring them here to build a stronger team by showing them around and giving them a good meal,” continued Yates.
Yates wanted to know IA officials’ opinions about what they believe Coalition Forces should be doing, he explained. Additionally, Yates wanted to find out what IA leaders believe is the best way to include Iraqi Police (IP) in their security triangle. He sought the best way to gain support of local sheikhs and families for 5-25 initiatives.
The opportunity to meet and break bread with IA officials proved to be beneficial for 5-25’s leadership.
“It was a great first step in building a relationship between the two (units) and comparing information, tactics and techniques,” said Smith.
“The Iraqi culture is very relationship driven, and you get a sense (of that) during a meeting or during a meal with them. Even though you don’t speak the same language,” said Yates. “The more they open up and the more they speak and the less that you speak, you know the meeting is going well, and I think you can tell that here today.”
Yates continued, saying discussions they had during the meeting will affect the future of Zafaraniya and its people.
“We’re going to take this to the next step in the future,” promised Yates. The battalion plans to work on bringing IP into the fold, especially because they are a very important piece for the security of Iraq. Police are the first line of defense, just as they are in the United States. This increases the importance of their role in this (initiative), said Yates. The police are always the first on the scene, and 5th Bn., 25th FA is here to back them up, he exclaimed.
Yates acknowledges the contributions the IP have been making in Zafaraniya. “They’re putting their lives on the line just as much (as), if not more than, anybody else … so we want to make sure they’re included in the team as well,” stated Yates.
Yates explained his forces want to focus on reconciliation by establishing relations with key leadership in the local government. Yates expressed his desire to work with these government leaders to come up with ways to get both Shia and Sunni families and leaders to work together for the betterment of Zafaraniya.