AL ANBAR, Iraq - The Texas Army National Guard engaged the Iraqi Army - not on the battlefield, but on a poolside patio here, March 29.
The Lubbock, Texas based 2nd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment "Task Force Avalanche" hosted members of the 7th Iraqi Infantry Division to a Texas style barbecue topped-off with country music and electrical flares.
Weeks of planning and construction went into the event.
Master Sgt. Kirk Smith and Spc. Jesse Vasquez, both welders in their civilian jobs, built an outdoor grill and meat smoker out of an old air-compressor tank and vehicle scrap metal. Staff Sgt. Roy Bowers and the Mayor Cell's staff built a horseshoe pit, planted blossoming wild flowers around the entry, and cooked the food. Decorations, ball-caps, and raffle items were provided by the Texas Rangers baseball club.
Normally, a sand storm would cause an outdoor event to be cancelled. Not in Iraq. The Iraqis are of course accustomed to sand storms - so too are the predominantly west Texas Soldiers of Task Force Avalanche.
Twenty-two Iraqi Army officers attended the event including Col. Muhammad, commanding officer of the 7th Motorized Transportation Regiment and Col. Tata, commanding officer of the 7th Logistical Command who both, through their interpreters, said they enjoyed the food and hospitality.
Lt. Col. Mark Burkett, commanding officer of the 2nd Bn., 142nd Inf. Regt., whose battalion shares the highways with the Iraqi Army, said to his guest "you all are our neighbors and asking you to join us today is the neighborly thing to do."
Avalanche's company commanders and Soldiers enjoyed the opportunity to mingle and take pictures with the Iraqi Army Officers.
Capt. Johnny Guerrero - Alpha Company, 2nd Bn., 142nd Inf. Regt., company commander, remarked on the positive changes he has observed within the Iraqi Army. "I have been impressed with their increased tactical proficiency compared to the last time I was here," he said.
The relationship between American and Iraqi Soldiers has dramatically changed since the first years of the war. The U.S. and Iraq forces show partnerships in routing the residual insurgency from Iraq.