Chris called yesterday morning and it was great to hear his voice and talk with him. His mother and I covered a lot of ground during our conversations and learned some details about a number of changes coming for him...here is what Chris shared:
Chris passed his board for promotion to Sergeant and is now in the promotable zone. Depending on how the points play out he could pin on as early as 1 October 2008. He was very excited about the promotion and increased responsibility - not to mention the extra $$$. He indicated he had prepared for the board and was ready with what they threw at him. I enjoyed hearing the details of the board as they brought back memories of my promotion boards while serving in the U.S. Marines. We are proud of Chris, just as we are very proud of Jake and Aaron, his two older brothers. All three are very special young men. We love all three of them more than words can express.
Chris also shared that he had been selected to join the 1-509th (Airborne) Infantry OPFOR (Opposing Force) unit at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Say what...what is an OPFOR and what will he be doing? Chris will use his 15 months of combat experience in Iraq to provide contingency training for the Army's light infantry and special operations forces preparing for future deployments. He will be part of the OPFOR unit which plays the role of the enemy during war game scenarios. His unit, the OPFOR, will employ current tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) providing realistic, stressful, and challenging combat conditions for Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) units prior to their deployment.
There are three Major Training Centers that utilize home-based OPFOR units for the US Army:
- The National Training Center or NTC at Fort Irwin, California - home unit is the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment or BLACKHORSE
- The Joint Readiness Training Center or JRTC at Fort Polk, Louisiana - home unit is the 1st Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment or GERONIMOS
- The Joint Multinational Readiness Center or JMRC (formerly known as the Combat Maneuver Training Center or CMTC) at Hohenfels, Germany - home unit is the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment (Separate) or WARRIORS
- Cell structure with mobile, dispersed C2: Every soldier must understand Regional Leader's intent, priority information requirements (PIR), and high payoff targets (HPT).
- Civilian clothes, weapons cached; blend with local populace and civilians on the battlefield
- Communicate by cell phone, messenger, and walk about radio
- Improvised explosive devices (IED), vehicle-borne IEDs, Mortar/Rocket Attacks, RPG/Small Arms Attacks, Suicide Attacks
- Aggressive Information Warfare Campaign
If you are interested, here is a video that was made some two years ago as the US Army began to apply what was being learned in Iraq as part of realistic training conducted at the JRTC, Fort Polk, Louisiana. One look at the video and this will all make sense...
So, what does the future hold for your warrior? I continue to pray for all of the warriors serving with the 2nd SCR. Some will remain with the unit, others will move on to another unit and some will leave the military to begin a new life. Regardless of their decisions they will forever be in my heart...I will never forget.
Before I close, let me leave you with some current news on the 2nd SCR as they continue to take care of business in Iraq. This one is about Eagle Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd SCR...
Chris, I love you son!
Some troops say Iraqis need to do more
Story and photos by Sean Kimmons, Stars and Stripes
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
(See photos at end of story)
TAHRIR, Iraq — As Iraqi security forces continue to take the lead on missions in much of the country, the U.S. military has generally — and deliberately — slipped into the background.
But at an irritable area bordering Baqouba, where there are fears that recent gains made by an Iraqi-led offensive could be lost, the opposite has happened.
Manpower issues and a perceived lack of initiative by Iraqi police have forced soldiers with Company E, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, out of Vilseck, Germany, to patrol Tahrir mainly alone.
U.S. soldiers conduct daily missions in the town to keep the peace and deter enemies from trickling back. Local Iraqi police tend to hold down checkpoints at safer locations on the outskirts, soldiers say.
"It is frustrating," said Capt. Solon Webb, company commander, adding he has to focus more time spreading out his forces than targeting high-value targets.
Intelligence gathering has also been a difficult process with the scarce Iraqi police, whose police chief is a major sitting in a colonel slot, a two rank difference, he said.
"It’s not as free flowing," said Webb, 32, of Walnut Creek, Calif. "I still get the same amount but I have to work twice as hard to get it."
Iraqi police Maj. Sa’ad, the police chief of Tahrir, said he has only 122 policemen and needs twice that number to cover his jurisdiction.
"Tahrir is a big area. We need more IPs," Sa’ad said through a translator. "I need 250 to be ready to control this area."
He’s working on bringing more into his force, he said.
Sa’ad also denied that his policemen were avoiding the U.S. soldiers. "We always join with coalition forces and cooperate with them," he said. "If they need anything we help them."
Last week, soldiers held a knock-and-search raid in a troublesome sector of Tahrir. In the searches, which they call "block parties," soldiers asked Iraqis of any suspicious activity in the area and then snooped around the homes.
Second Lt. Richard Faille, 23 of Beverly, Mass., led his platoon of soldiers in the searches without police support despite inviting them.
Though he and his soldiers would prefer to do operations alone, their main mission is to bolster the Iraqi security forces so U.S. troops can leave the country, he said.
"They’re difficult to work with but it’s necessary," Faille said of the Iraqi police.
"We try to give them support and confidence," a hard thing to do when they don’t show up for joint missions, he added.
Many of the Iraqi police officers in town are Muslim and will be fasting during Ramadan, which begins Tuesday, said Webb, who predicted that fewer will show up for work.
In June, violence surged in Tahrir with suicide bombings, shootings and roadside bombs. The largely Sunni town, next to Diyala province’s governance center and its Iraqi police headquarters in Baqouba, became a popular hangout for insurgents.
"It’s an area where people love to prove a point," Webb said.
Iraqi security forces led an offensive starting in late July that cleared the area and got rid of U.S.-funded "Sons of Iraq" fighters. The city of roughly 75,000 residents was then left to U.S. soldiers and a limited supply of Iraqi police.
"I fear if we keep it sparse, the next couple of months could see an increase of enemy activity," Faille said. He said he has heard plans to boost the town’s Iraqi police numbers in the near future.
With or without the Iraqi police, Webb vows not to let the town fall into enemy’s hands.
"We won’t let it happen," he said. "We’re not going to give up this fight."
A platoon leader with E Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, asks an Iraqi man questions on security in Tahrir on Thursday. The mission was intended to be a joint effort with Iraqi police, but none showed up.
An Iraqi girl waves to a soldier as other soldiers with E Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, interview the adults of the household (background) about security issues in Tahrir.
Iraqi children curiously watch on as soldiers with E Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, search homes during a knock-and-search raid in Tahrir.
A soldier with E Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, secures the area as other soldiers ask an Iraqi man (left) questions on security in Tahrir.
Staff Sgt. Matthew Beaudette, 27, of Ocala, Fla., with E Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, clears an Iraqi home during a knock-and-search raid in Tahrir.
A platoon leader with E Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, asks an Iraqi teenager if there are concerns with security in Tahrir.
Iraqis look on as soldiers with E Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, exit a home during a knock-and-search raid in Tahrir.
Soldiers with E Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, enter an Iraqi home during a knock-and-search raid in Tahrir.