FOB LOYALTY, Iraq, March 28, 2006 - "I want to come work for you," said GEN George Casey Jr., commanding general, Multi-National Forces-Iraq, while joking with 1LT David Jones, platoon leader, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, MND-B in east Baghdad.
The issue was work hours, and Casey wanted the six-hour patrol for his work day instead of his usual sixteen.
With maintenance, mission preparation time and additional duties, explained LTC Mark Bertolini, commander, 3rd Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, Jones and his platoon work closer to twelve-hour days. He assured the Multi-National Force commander that the lieutenant had plenty of business. Their smiles told the story of hard work and accomplishment served up with humor.
After inspecting a Bradley Fighting Vehicle in the New Baghdad neighborhood, Casey traveled with COL Thomas Vail, commander, 506th Infantry Regiment, to Jisr Diyala to see the operational area of the 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment.
They discussed the capabilities of the cavalry squadron and how tips from civilians are making finding criminals and terrorists easier, said LTC Brian Winski, commander, 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment.
"One great story is how our troops worked together with Iraqi Public Order Forces to find and kill two mortar men who kept firing on police buildings down in Salman Pak," he said.
The unit launched counter-mortar fire, he said, and also had marksmen fire across the river to hit the two terrorists.
When asked what the biggest positive for soldiers he had seen, Winski reminded Casey of PFC Keith Kelly, who Casey awarded the Purple Heart to for a gun shot wound to his leg during a previous visit in February.
"PFC Kelly is doing great now and recently received a $20,000 bonus for reenlisting," said Winski.
In Zafaraniyah, LTC Kevin Milton, commander, 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, introduced Casey to several local leaders. Iraqi police and firefighter leaders told Casey they needed more people, weapons and supplies to better secure and protect their people. Casey acknowledged more can and will be done to bring the local leaders the assistance they asked for.
"We"ll always be friends," said Casey.
Milton praised local leaders for their spirit of cooperation with each other. He especially wanted Casey to meet the strong leaders who are helping do the hard work to make their part of east Baghdad safer.
"Your closeness is making a difference," said Milton.
Essential services improvements were the theme of LTC Christopher Hall [battalion commander, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion] as he took Casey down an excavated site where a pump station is being built by Iraqis. He described how the station would push the waste products generated to a treatment station and improve the standard of living for local residents.
Casey took the opportunity to talk to several of the residents in the neighborhood, who said they looked forward to the pump station completion.
After the group returned to Forward Operation Base Loyalty,
Vail introduced Casey to LTC
Paul Finken, military transition team chief, and LTC Chris
Pease, deputy brigade commander. They discussed how employment
and commerce would lead to greater stability in the area. Finken
and Pease told Casey how hard the Iraqi Army soldiers are working
to perfect their tactics and bring security to the area.