Transition Team Continues to Make Progress
U.S., Iraqi soldiers work to gain trust of locals.
By Spc. Alexis Harrison
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Calvary Division

FORWARD OPERATING BASE PROSPERITY, Iraq, March 29, 2007 — A few months ago Haifa Street was considered one of the most notorious places in Baghdad.

The 4th Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment Military Transition Team had been training for the moment to reclaim that area and fight alongside their Iraqi brothers from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division.

As abruptly as the fighting ended, the team and its counterparts were reassigned to a different area in Hateen where they fought an equally aggressive enemy. After spending more than two months gaining trust and rebuilding the structure of the neighborhood, the soldiers, both Iraqi and American, were called upon to move to another area. Now, the team and the Iraqi Army battalion patrol a predominately Shi'a sector just west of the International Zone.

After more than 90 days of tough lessons learned on Haifa, the team takes its training of their counterparts more seriously than ever. Staff Sgt. Colin Davis said that although the move presents challenges, it's also proved to be good in many ways.

He said that staying in an area for too long can lead to complacency. He stressed the importance of learning how to adapt and overcome every challenge that's been placed on the soldiers he fights with. As much as they'd faced in the past, the team still knew how important it was to never lower its guard, because a soldier can never predict what is going to happen on the ground.

Along with the security-related concerns, Norrie and his men wanted to spread a little cheer to a few children while they were in the area. Inside their trucks, they had several new backpacks that they wanted to give away, but all that changed when the team had to engage an insurgent.

Norrie said that when coming into a new area like Docklia, it's paramount to gain the people's trust and begin to make improvements to not only security but to essential services like water, sewage and school rebuilding.

"The training doesn't stop, even when you go out in sector," said Staff Sgt. Buaka Tamu, Sierra Leon, West Africa, native and security chief with the team.

While many of the team's members acknowledge the suspicions that surround the Iraqi security, they also make it very clear how important trust is to each and every one of them. "We're a family," Tamu said. "It's not the MiTT and the Iraqi Army; it's just 3-5-6. We're all together in this. We're doing what has to be done now so that our kids and grandkids don't have to be doing it all over again down the road."

"We trust these guys enough to fight alongside them," said Pfc. Josh Bartoli, a driver and Weirton, W.V., native with the team. "That should say enough."

Norrie and the team hope that they don't have to occupy a different area again. They had built up a reputation with the people of Haifa and in Hateen, and they hope to do the same for the people in the new area. Two days after encountering the sniper, the team and its counterparts were back on the street accomplishing the mission they started out to fulfill. They finally got to hand out all the backpacks and care packages to the kids on the streets.

“It’s all about strengthening relationships with the people,” Norrie said. “We all believe the future of this country belongs in their hands. They are the force to put an end to this violence. If not them, then who else?”