Combat Camera: Pennsylvania Guard Mission Counters Attacks From IEDs, IDF in Iraq
Dispatches from the Front:
BAGHDAD, July 31, 2009 -- An area known as "the big concrete slab" has attracted the interest of a platoon of Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers for its use as a staging area to deter indirect fire attacks against coalition forces.
Soldiers of the "Charger" Company, 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, drove Stryker vehicles onto the "slab" to conduct a counter-improvised explosive device and counter-IDF mission here, July 30.
The area, which gave a wide 360-degree view, was picked as a good spot to thwart insurgent attacks in the planning phase.
"We're trying to catch people placing IEDs or trying to fire rockets and mortars at us or at VBC [Victory Base Complex]," said Spc. Paul Valdiserri, an infantryman from Stockdale, Pa. "There is also that chance that someone will come up to us to give us information. We've had that happen before."
The Pennsylvania Guardsmen, attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, dismounted from their Strykers and scanned the area for anything out of place. There was good reason to search the area, according to 1st Lt. Frederick Santucci, a platoon leader. There have been enemy attacks with RKG-3 grenades in the area recently.
"The remote weapon station has a pretty good field of view from here," said Santucci, who is an infantry officer from Lock Haven, Pa.
Though few attacks against CF would be conducted during the day, Santucci said the presence of the Charger Company soldiers would hopefully discourage insurgents. He said there was no substitute for a soldier's eyes on the ground.
"Every soldier is a sensor," Santucci said.
The Strykers stopped at several other locations, where the soldiers walked around looking for anything out of the ordinary that could indicate a freshly-planted IED. After the searches were concluded, the soldiers stopped at the Rishala Iraqi Police Station in the Abu Ghraib area.
"They are a solid ally here and we have a great working relationship; we have invested a lot of time with them," said Santucci. "They have really stepped up and supported us."
The platoon leader praised the efforts of the local Iraqi police, who he said had demonstrated a commitment to keeping their community safe and to improving the quality of life for the Iraqi citizens.
"Together we have managed to do a lot of great things in the community, from humanitarian drops to taking down bad guys," said Santucci.
As the Strykers rolled back toward VBC, the sky turned orange as a dust storm quickly descended upon Baghdad. The soldiers dismounted the Strykers for the last time of the day, and attended a post-mission briefing. Santucci fielded questions about how the soldiers thought the mission went and encouraged them to remain vigilant.
"The guys are capable of handling any mission they are given," Santucci said of his infantry platoon. "Every one of them has improved every day since we got here."
At the end of another mission, the soldiers of the 2nd Bn., 112th Inf. Regt., could rest and prepare for their next mission, knowing their presence out in sector had helped to keep other soldiers safer from IEDs and VBC safer from attack.
(Report by Jon Soles, Multi-National Division Baghdad.)
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