October 10th, 2009:
The 4-9 Manchus uncase their colors on JSS NWS
alongside their Iraqi Army counterparts.

COL Norris, sLTC Yassar, LTC McCassey, CSM Huggins, distinguished guests and Soldiers of the Manchu Battalion and Soldiers of the 24th Iraqi Infantry Brigade - good morning and welcome to the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Colors Uncasing Ceremony.

This is truly a historic day in all of our lives and the life of this great battalion and regiment. Today we uncase the colors of the Manchu Battalion, in a foreign country, to once again, answer the call of duty in the pursuit of freedom. Soldiers of the 9th Infantry Regiment have uncased these colors in almost every conflict in our nation's history - in places like China, France, Germany, Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq - for the second time. The 9th Infantry Regiment has served proudly in the defense of our nation for the past 200 years, the Manchus for the past 100 years - and for the soldiers standing in formation and already conducting operations in the Abu Ghareib Qada - this is our year.

We follow a tradition of bravery, courage and selfless service. Manchus, you have already accomplished much at getting to where we stand today. Through the training at Fort Lewis and JRTC, through Kuwait and Victory Base to the remote outposts called Nasar Wa Salam and Aqur Quf. You have performed magnificently and your example is motivating and inspiring to me, as your commander - and will continue to motivate and inspire those around you. Our mission here remains extremely dangerous and will require each of you to perform beyond your own expectations - but this mission is also critical. It is critical to the Iraqi people in this area and to our nation's ability to close this chapter. Manchus we must remain focused, vigilant and strong.

There is another group of men that we honor and recognize today. They are the soldiers of the 24th Iraqi Brigade. Their colors stand proudly in their brigade headquarters and their men stand solidly already securing this area and the Qada. These men have fought courageously over the past 6 years for their country, their families and for each other. They, along with the coalition, have made significant progress in reestablish security within this area and all over Iraq. This success has not come without sacrifice, but they continue to serve and fight when necessary. Today we pledge to them and to the Iraqi people of this qada - the Manchus will stand side by side with the 24th to continue this progress and irreversible momentum towards peace.

I have spoken to two groups this morning - the 4th Battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment and the 24th Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Army Division. These two groups have many things in common. They have hopes and dreams. They have families, that they miss and love. They are loyal to their country. They are wearing their nations colors and they are committed to this critical mission - but most importantly - they are Soldiers.

Be proud of that - in the year ahead, stand tall and strong, always.

For the rest of your lives, take pride in the fact you have served and sacrificed for your nation - and forever you will be called a Soldier.

Keep Up the Fire.

- Remarks from LTC Mark Bieger, MANCHU 6.



November 6, 2009:
IA, U.S. troops on the hunt
By SSG Mark Burrel, MND-B PAO


BAGHDAD - As Iraqi Security Forces continue their missions inside the city, here, insurgents and criminal groups find themselves forced out to the rural areas.

Recently, insurgents used a local farm on the western outskirts of Baghdad to attack a U.S. convoy.

U.S. infantrymen from 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, combed the area with Iraqi Army Soldiers, Nov. 4, to prevent insurgents from gaining a foothold in the area.

"A lot of weapons come through this area into Baghdad," said Spc. Daniel Pacheco, from San Antonio. "Our job is to stop the supply routes into the city."

The joint American/Iraqi patrol searched rows of farmlands and abandoned buildings in the area to hunt for any clues, explained 1st Lt. Mark Hamilton, a platoon leader from Baltimore.

"Historically, the people doing the emplacing or pulling the trigger aren't doing it because they dislike the U.S. or IA, they do it for money," said Hamilton. "The jobless rate out here is very high, I think like 70 percent, so it's important to get out there and go see the peopleā€¦so that they're not forgotten."

Hamilton stressed that joint patrols like this one allow local farmers to connect with Soldiers, with the hope that they will be less likely to help insurgents in the area.

"We make it a lot harder for the insurgents, so they can't do what they want," added Pacheco, while his fellow troops checked haystacks, looked under empty barrels and searched behind doors.

While many times the searches turn up nothing, Soldiers, like Pacheco, do understand the importance of their role in the out-lying regions of Baghdad.

"If we stop the flow of weapons into the city, then it helps the government get on its feet," said Pacheco. "Helping the capital helps keep the country stable."

BAGHDAD -Pfc. John Fraser (right), from Milford, N.H., uses his flashlight to search inside a barrel with Pvt. Brandin Durgin (left), from Titusville, Fla., as they search an abandoned building during a joint patrol in northwestern Baghdad, Nov. 4. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAO)

BAGHDAD - During a joint patrol to clear the area of insurgents, 1st Lt. Mark Hamilton, an infantry platoon leader from Baltimore, takes a look inside of an abandoned building Nov. 4, in northwestern Baghdad. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAO)

BAGHDAD - Staff Sgt. Fernando Paz (right), a weapons squad leader from Fresno, Calif., and Spc. Daniel Pacheco (left), a forward observer from San Antonio, peer over a wall into farmland during a joint patrol in northwestern Baghdad, Nov. 4. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAO)

BAGHDAD -"It's important to keep weapons and insurgents out of the rural areas because it's just farmland and these people are just trying to make a living," said Milford, N.H., native, Pfc. John Fraser (right), while walking through a farm with Titusville, Fla., native, Pvt. Brandin Durgin (middle) and an Iraqi Army Soldier during a joint patrol, north of Abu Ghraib, Nov. 4. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAO)

BAGHDAD - "These patrols let the insurgents know that we're constantly on surveillance of the area," said Pfc. John Fraser (right), from Milford, N.H., as he runs across a makeshift bridge, followed by Pvt. Brandin Durgin, from Titusville, Fla., during a joint patrol in farmland just northwest of Baghdad, Nov. 4. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAO)


November 4, 2009:
IA led joint patrol protects Aqur Quf
By SSG Mark Burrell, MND-B PAO



BAGHDAD - On a dusty road in northwestern Baghdad, Sgt. Kegan Cline kneels beside a wall, resting his M-14 sniper rifle as a group of Iraqi girls in blue school uniforms walk by, giggling and pushing each other, Nov. 3.

The Worcester, Mass. native, smiled briefly and nodded at the girls, knowing that his presence, combined with Iraqi Army Soldiers, allows the girls to walk around safely.

"It feels great that we're here serving a purpose," said Cline, assigned to Company A, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. "These kids can go to and from school without fear and that the community sees two organizations working together as one is a great thing."

Since arriving a few months ago in Aqur Quf, a rural area in northwestern Baghdad, U.S. troops have worked with IA Soldiers on a daily basis to help keep the area safe.

"It's a good thing that the U.S. forces support us and we work together and the community sees that," said IA Capt. Nomas Mohammed Hussein. "These people just need somebody to hear their concerns and understand them."

In order to do that, the American and Iraqi Soldiers patrol the area on foot, interacting with the people face-to-face and giving the locals a different perception.

"Many of the people think that when we dismount our vehicles, we just arrest people, but that is not true," explained Hussein. "We want to show them that now we are here to talk to them."

The Soldiers move from farmhouse to farmhouse allowing Nomas and the other IA Soldiers time to playfully ask the children their names and talk to the adults about the local security situation.

"These patrols are important because it's time for us to leave [Iraq] soon, so we let the IA do a lot more of the talking, like today," said 1st Lt. Mike Slapik, an infantry platoon leader from West Bridgewater, Mass.

As Nomas spoke at length to the men of the house at each location, Slapik stood back and listened to the conversations through his interpreter.

"Everybody's going to tell you it's safe, but when you sit down with the people, they'll want to tell us more information," Slapik explained. "You have to stay and talk for an extended period of time to get a feeling for how they feel."

The Soldiers listened to concerns about clean water and jobs. Slapik explained that they cannot fix most of these problems immediately.

"It's good to show that we're not going to solve all their problems, but that they have to go through the local system they've established," added Slapik, stressing working within the system the local government has created.

Many of the local people come to the Soldiers with problems that need to be solved at their local governance level.

"It's a detective's job basically," continued Slapik. "It's not a short turn-around, finding bad guys is a long legal process with multiple witnesses and arrest warrants issued through a judge. We like to make sure the local people see that process, so there are actually results."

The biggest thing that Slapik and his Soldiers want to show the local populations is that American forces are simply supporting the IA, as they are the ones in charge now.

One local area man has noticed a difference in the area thanks to this relationship.

"It's better when the U.S. and IAs work together," said Ali Nafe Juwad. "The situation here was very bad a year ago, but it is better today because of the work the Americans and IA do together."

After tea is over, Slapik and his men wait on what Hussein wants to do next. The Iraqi captain broke into a thin smile as he ruffled the hair of a little girl, then shook hands and decided the patrol was finished.

After a day of meeting many familiar faces, the Soldiers climbed back into their vehicles, knowing that they left the area a little safer and with a little more information than they had a day before.

BAGHDAD - First Lt. Mike Slapik (left), an infantry platoon leader from West Bridgewater, Mass., assigned to Company A, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, gives a pen to a little girl as a gift of friendship while Pvt. Steven Gamble (center left), an infantry radioman from Gastonia, N.C., and an Iraqi Army Soldier look on during a joint patrol in northwestern Baghdad, Nov. 3. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAO)

BAGHDAD - An Iraqi child smiles and gives a high-five to Spc. Eric Marquez, an infantryman and native of El Paso, Texas, assigned to Company A, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, during a short break in a joint patrol of the area in northwestern Baghdad, Nov. 3. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAO)

BAGHDAD - Staff Sgt. Andrew Byrnes (front right), an infantry squad leader from Aransas Pass, Texas, 1st Lt. Mike Slapik (left), platoon leader from West Bridgewater, Mass., Pvt. Steven Gamble (middle), an infantryman from Gastonia, N.C., begin a joint patrol with Iraqi Army Capt. Nomas Mohammed Hussein in rural Aqur Quf, here, Nov. 3. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAO)

BAGHDAD - Sgt. Kegan Cline, from Worcester, Mass., takes a knee against a wall with his M-14 sniper rifle as Iraqi girls in blue school uniforms walk home during a joint patrol in northwestern Baghdad, Nov. 3. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAO)

BAGHDAD - A local Iraqi man discusses security in the area with Iraqi Army Capt. Nomas Mohammed Hussein (left), and Lt. Mike Slapik (middle), an infantry platoon leader from West Bridgewater, Mass., during a routine patrol in northwestern Baghdad, Nov. 3. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAO)

BAGHDAD - Iraqi Army Capt. Nomas Mohammed Hussein (right), looks at a local man's identification card while on a joint patrol with 1st Lt. Mike Slapik (middle), an infantry platoon leader from West Bridgewater, Mass., in northwestern Baghdad, Nov. 3. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAO)

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