The Changing Role of US Infantry Soldiers in Iraq
Dispatches from the Front:
DIYALA PROVINCE, Iraq, Dec. 28, 2008 -- Normally, the role an infantry soldier plays can be summed up simply: infantry soldiers are soldiers who are primarily trained for fighting on foot. However, with ever-changing modern warfare and the enhancements made to the country of Iraq by the efforts of coalition forces and Iraqi security forces, the role of the infantry soldier is undergoing changes of its own.
“It’s changes from us, primarily, spearheading just about every operation,” said Staff Sgt. Brian McDermott, weapons squad leader, 2nd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. “That’s leveled off considerably and the majority of those responsibilities are falling on our counterparts here in Iraq – the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army.”
McDermott – who has been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Saudi Arabia – explained that, although implemented differently, his responsibilities as an infantry soldier in Afghanistan and during his first deployment to Iraq were the same.
“I was light infantry in Afghanistan, whereas, the first time in Iraq with this brigade, we were mounted on Strykers,” McDermott said. “For me, the fight was different largely because we had the combat multiplier of the infantry carrier vehicle, but the overall mission was exactly the same.”
While spearheading these operations, McDermott said, infantry soldiers conducted clearing procedures, screening procedures, set up blocking positions and generally assisted in enhancing the security of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now, in Iraq, at least, infantry soldiers have started to serve in a different capacity.
“Our focus is joint patrols,” said McDermott. “We’re working with the IA, IP and the Emergency Response Force. It’s called tactical over watch. Our focus is to over watch our counterparts and provide assistance to them.”
Infantry soldiers have also started serving in a planning capacity in Iraq. These soldiers have begun to plan operation considerations with higher ranking IA and IP forces as well as provide insight as to how the IA and IP should conduct operations on the ground, said McDermott.
The most influential change McDermott has seen as far as security forces are concerned, he said, is the formation of the establishment known as the Concerned Local Citizens.
“Basically, I would say it’s kind of a beefed-up neighborhood watch,” McDermott explained. “The biggest change I have seen since we were last here in ’06 has been in the CLC fashion. We were initially up in Mosul and while we were up there, our primary focus was on the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army, who provided security for most of the major cities. CLC, that’s completely different. It’s more of a security measure for the surrounding villages and towns.”
The assistance infantry soldiers have begun to provide to Iraqi security forces and, generally, the people of Iraq is more diversified than just establishing security in the country, however. These soldiers serve in the unique role of assisting in the reestablishment of the Iraqi government.
“What we’ve provided is micro-grants,” McDermott said. “Each one is about $5,000. We use them to work with various projects – working with sheiks and CLC leaders in these towns, working different ways to distribute funds. It’s a way to try to better the communities and getting independent businesses up and running, which will help to start improving the economy.”
Ultimately, said McDermott, these infantry soldiers are aiding in a process which will, in the future, enable the Iraqi people to facilitate their country to prosper on their own.
“They will be able to provide security of their own boarders and their own cities so they can get their economy squared away and roll on as a free, democratic society,” McDermott said. “Personally, I think that’s a good thing. It means from the time we came over here up until now, progress has been made. We are making a difference. And that is not a waste.”
(Report by Pfc. Alisha Nye, 14th Public Affairs Detachment.)
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