CAMP TAJI, Iraq, April 9 - Soldiers from Dagger Troop, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, attached to the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, took the time recently to get to know their Iraqi Army counterparts here. To foster esprit de corps and camaraderie, the soldiers from Dagger and their counterparts in the 2nd Brigade, 9th Iraqi army division (mechanized) held a partnership day April 2.
During the event, tankers from both countries got to know each other and each other's equipment. The U.S. troops provided an M1A2 Abrams tank for the event, while the Iraqi army soldiers provided several of their T-72 tanks. Interpreters assisted while U.S. and Iraqi troops explained the operation of their tanks and after a brief introduction, they took test rides on the tanks.
"This is an important opportunity for us as a troop, it gives me the chance to meet my counterpart," said Anchorage, Alaska-native Capt. Martin Wohlgemuth, the troop commander. "For the soldiers, since they're always going out on missions (with their Iraqi counterparts), this affords them the opportunity to take their gear off and get to know each other.
"We're focusing on relationships; we won't build trust and confidence with our Iraqi counterparts without taking time to do these kinds of things," he added. "It's important as they work together and then see each other in gatherings like this one that they recognize the faces they see."
The troops from Dagger have spent a lot of time in Iraq working with the Iraqi army troops in this mechanized division on patrols together, cordons and searches, finding weapons caches and disrupting insurgent and terrorist cells.
"It's been a really awesome experience working with them," said 1st Lt. Jeremy King-McCrillis, a tank platoon leader for Dagger. "It's good helping these guys to take over their sector, and whenever we go on patrols, they're in the lead."
King-McCrillis added that the Iraqi troops are making a lot of progress in operations.
"They've been going out there on their own and have found many improvised explosive devices without us," said King-McCrillis. "Any targets that they want to go after, we're here to assist them with."
With all the time they've spent working with their Iraqi brothers outside the wire, it was no surprise, the Dagger tankers said, that they welcomed the partnership day opportunity.
"This has been great and getting to see the T-72s in action has been really interesting," Spc. Nicholas Bomar, a Dagger Troop loader on the M1A2 Abrams tank. Bomar hails from Bay City, Texas. "Despite the language barrier, if I had more chances it would be nice to be able to hang out with them. I look forward to more chances to meet with them."
"It felt great getting to show my Iraqi comrades, my band of brothers here, how to work our tanks," said Bronx, N.Y.-native Pfc. Dane Dubouzet, a tank driver for Dagger Troop. "They were very cooperative, and it was easy to show them because they comprehend it all very well. They had a great time learning how to operate the Abrams."