BAGHDAD (Army News Service, Aug. 7, 2007) - Soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment have found themselves in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the Iraqi capital.
After more than a year patrolling and surviving the streets of Baghdad, the squadron finds itself on the downhill slope toward home at Fort Lewis, Wash. Although many Soldiers are counting down the remaining days, they are still patrolling the streets of Karkh district.
Second Lt. Michael Patti has only been with the Soldiers for about six months. When he heard he was being assigned to the 1st Sqdn., 14th Cav. Regt., 2nd Lt. Patti said he expected a less-than-friendly welcome from Soldiers who moved several times, fought through many battles, only to receive word of an extension.
To his surprise, 2nd Lt. Patti said he fell into the platoon seamlessly.
"I thought I was going to walk into a unit that was beaten down, tired and angry about getting extended," he said. "I haven't seen anything like what I expected. Leaders do a great job keeping the Soldiers heads in the fight even this late in the deployment. Fourteen months into this and they're still a force to be reckoned with."
Second Lt. Patti credits leaders in general, but he extends a special thanks to those in his platoon. He said leaders like Sgt. Brandon Bashore make all the difference when they patrol.
The sergeant said he understands going home is something they all think of, but he knows complacency has no place in the unit.
"There's a big difference between being comfortable and being complacent," Sgt. Bashore said. "We're comfortable in what we do because we've been doing it for so long, but being complacent would mean that we wouldn't care. You have to take things seriously out here. No matter what happens, we all have to make it back together."
Sgt. Bashore said he's been able to focus on his troops more due to improvements made by the Iraqi army company they patrol with.
"I'm able to keep better control of my Soldiers because the IA has really stepped up lately," he said. "They've become quite an asset to us and the community."
Second Lt. Patti also noticed a big change in the Iraqi soldiers. He said what was once an unmotivated unit has turned into something the people can be proud of.
"There were a lot of problems with the IA when I first arrived in April," he said. "We would show up to the outpost the IA would be manning and have to wait for them for an hour before they'd be ready to go out on a patrol. Sometimes there'd be only six of them in one truck that would come out with us."
Now, when the "Death Stalkers" arrive to the outpost, dozens of Iraqi troops stand up; ready to go, in full uniform.
Second Lt. Patti said the relationship between the two forces has grown into a friendship, but it doesn't end there. Traffic control points are improved, search techniques have been passed on and etiquette are just a few more things the lieutenant and sergeant have noticed improvements in.
"When you treat people with respect like the IA has been doing lately, word gets around and people start to work with us a little more," Sgt. Bashore said.
The platoon recently wrapped up an ongoing operation aimed at cataloging all the military-age males in the area. Spc. Jacob Campbell said having good relations makes the job much faster and easier.
Spc. Campbell, who was trained on the identification system, noticed people welcome the troops into their homes now; whereas in times past, the people wouldn't want to be seen talking to American or Iraqi troops.
Joint patrols, clearing operations and building good relations proved to be a "triple-edged" sword, 2nd Lt. Patti said. While he and his troops hope to leave a lasting impression on the Iraqi soldiers, 2nd Lt. Patti said the level of professionalism and discipline will remain where it is until the day they step on the plane headed to Fort Lewis.