CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq --
Since the beginning of April 2009, a detachment of Marines from 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, have kept U.S. forces and civilian contractors aboard Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq, safe and secure.
Recently, the Marines handed that responsibility over to the paratroopers of 1st Bn., 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, during a transfer of authority ceremony held aboard the base. The transfer is part of the U.S. military’s plan to draw down its forces and reduce its footprint in Iraq, especially in the once-volatile region of Al Anbar province.
Soldiers who previously served in Al Anbar realize the major security gains achieved within the past three years and appreciate the current state of security at the base and its surrounding region. Particularly, the battalion’s top soldier, Army Lt. Col. Xavier T. Brunson, commanding officer of 1st Bn., 504th PIR, who served in an area near Baghdad from January 2007 to March 2008,is amazed to see the positive changes made since 2007.
“Last time we were here, Al Qaeda had a larger role in fomenting dissent so in turn, people had less hope and the security and economy were horrible,” he said.
Coming back to serve in this area is very exciting because we see building going on, the people have hope, and the security situation is better.”
Brunson’s predecessor, Maj. Christian Rankin, commanding officer, 1st Bn., 8th Marines security force detachment, took every possible measure to ensure the changeover was seamless. From the time 1st Bn., 504th, arrived to Iraq Aug. 20, Rankin and his Marines have passed along every piece of information necessary for the soldiers to accomplish their mission and continue Al Taqaddum’s safety.
“I could not have asked for a better team to work with in this transition. They are very professional, experienced and excited to be here,” Rankin noted. “I am confident that they are not going to have any major issues with taking this responsibility head on.”
Throughout the transitional process, Rankin advised Brunson to utilize what he calls a “great force multiplier” every chance he gets – civil military affairs.
“Civil military affairs is [extremely] important to our mission of keeping the base and surrounding area secure for two main reasons,” he said. “One, they allow the Iraqi population, Iraqi government, security forces, and their leaders to be exposed to military forces and the capabilities that we can provide. Two, they are a way to fight the insurgency and to keep them from getting a foothold again. Civil military affairs allow us to fight the insurgency through non-kinetic measures.”
For the next year, Brunson and his soldiers will work to keep the momentum that 1st Bn., 8th Marines, have passed on to them through continued partnership with the local Iraqi population, as they also assist in the ongoing responsible drawdown.
“We want to sustain the gains made by our Marine brothers through governance, security, partnerships and uninterrupted flow of support to the local Iraqi population, to help them re-build their schools, hospitals, and water treatment plants.” Brunson said.
He added that long-lasting security spurs economic growth and where there is growth, there is victory.
“We can’t go backwards. If there is stable security then prosperity usually follows.”