Archive for Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Fort Riley soldiers at vanguard of troop surge

April 3, 2007


— Three weeks into their mission to help stabilize security in Iraq, roughly 3,400 soldiers from Fort Riley are coming to grips with a complex and chaotic environment.

The unit is one of the first two brigade combat teams deployed as part of a troop surge intended to quell infighting in Baghdad. Three of its members died March 20 after an improvised explosive device struck their vehicle.

"We're in a Normandy D-Day-like situation as it applies to modern times and the war on terror," Maj. Kirk Luedeke, public affairs officer for the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, said from Baghdad.

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the Multi-National Force Iraq, has envisioned five brigade combat teams helping Iraqi forces secure streets and neighborhoods in Baghdad.

The soldiers live in small combat outposts and joint security stations where they can work with the Iraqi Security Forces and the local residents.

"They have a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week presence," Luedeke said. "Most importantly, it allows a level of trust to be built between the locals, the populace, the U.S. soldiers and the Iraqi Security Forces they're working with."

The Fort Riley brigade left in early February and spent a few weeks training in Kuwait. It is in charge of the Rashid district of Baghdad, where the soldiers are already living in outposts or building them.

Luedeke said nearby residents have been mostly friendly but also fearful.

"The real purpose of the Baghdad security plan, in addition to strengthening the Iraqi government and the ability of the security forces, is to show the Iraqi people tangible results of what we're doing," he said.

The brigade is expected to be in Iraq for 12 months. About 6,000 of the 15,000 soldiers assigned to Fort Riley are currently deployed overseas.


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