Thursday, September 10, 2009

Paratroopers Begin Replacing Marines in Al Anbar

"Story by Spc. Michael MacLeod
Date: 09.10.2009
Posted: 09.10.2009 01:57

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq – On the road between Ramadi and Fallujah lies the sediment of six years of violent conflict. The concussive forces of war, insurgency and terrorist brutality have turned much of the mason block construction into what must surely be the dictionary description following the word rubble. If this to block and mortar, what then to the lives of the Anbaris who lived here?

It is Sunday morning, Sept. 6. A man runs hose water over his shiny green sedan. A shopkeeper props open the doors with jugs of juice. Barefoot children play in the dusty streets and hold their hands to block the sun as they wave for candy from Soldiers rolling past in armored vehicles. They are used to seeing Marines here.The MRAPs, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, roll on and pass arid graveyards where impromptu headstones are barely distinguishable from the desert rocks. There are many such graveyards.

Back on the hardball, the vehicles pass a new construction site, and then another and another, then a construction yard full of new block and bags of mortar. Within one of the MRAPS, a paratrooper wearing an 82nd Airborne Division patch and an eagle for his rank says two words that seem prophetic to the moment: "New construction," he says.

Army Col. Mark Stammer, commander of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, and Marine Col. Matthew Lopez, commander of Regimental Combat Team 6, are traveling to Camp Al Taqaddum, where 1st BCT's storied 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, will be ceded authority to operate in east Al Anbar province by 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.The battalion of paratroopers is part of the first unit to deploy to Iraq as a fully-developed advisory-and-assistance brigade assigned the mission of security-force assistance to help Iraqis maintain security and stability, and ultimately, economic prosperity.The ceremony will mark the beginning of the end of five-and-a-half years of Marine Corps presence in Al Anbar province, and a continuation of the drawdown of U.S. combat forces in a free Iraq."

The Red Devils are not just part of the "next" U.S. combat troops to occupy Al
Anbar province, but in all likelihood, the last, with the last big milestone
being the second Iraqi national elections in January 2010."We are here in a very
exciting period of history," says Brunson. "We've got an awesome responsibility
to support the institutions that are going to continue the democratic process.
Our greatest export is a little bit of hope, and a whole bunch of training."

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