1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division 12.22.2011 Story by Spc. Bailey Jester
CONTINGENCY OPERATING STATION KALSU, Iraq – On March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush addressed the nation to make an announcement that changed the life of every American.
“My fellow citizens,” he stated. “At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.”
Soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division arrived at the Iraq-Kuwait border, the morning of Dec. 14. After nearly nine years of war, these Ironhorse soldiers were some of the last to leave Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. John Puckett)
The declaration marked the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now, nine years later, American and coalition forces have completed this mission, and are out of Iraq.
“We left with respect,” Lt. Col. Edmond Brown, commander of the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, of the Ironhorse Brigade, said about ending his mission in Iraq.
“Our soldiers professionally accomplished the mission,” Brown continued. “This is what the end of war looks like in the 21st Century.”
Ironhorse is no stranger to Iraq. This is the fourth time they have deployed to the country since OIF began in 2003.
“To roll into Iraq with the 1st Brigade, and now as one of the last units out, it feels really good,” said 1st Sgt. Steven Roy, a three time Ironhorse veteran and the senior non-commissioned officer in Company D, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment of the Ironhorse Brigade. “To know that I was here for the beginning and the end, it’s something to be proud of.”
Roy is not the only soldier who is proud of his history with Ironhorse.
“I’m proud of being part of the brigade,” American Samoan native, Spc. Liunta Ioane, a human resource manager assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of the Dragon Battalion, said about his historic part in the Iraq war. “I lost a best friend in ’06-’08 and named my son after him. It’s been full of good and bad memories.”
Throughout their past three deployments, Ironhorse fought some of the war’s most intense battles, directed hundreds of millions of dollars toward infrastructure improvement, supplied the Iraqi Security Forces with resources and assisted in transferring bases to the Government of Iraq.
The Ironhorse team was also present to enforce the June 30, 2009 deadline ending combat patrols in the cities, enabling the ISF to take responsibility for security, resulting in the transfer of nine bases to the 9th and 11th Iraqi Army Divisions.
“I believe the transitions were some of the biggest goals for Iraq, and to be a part of that is amazing,” said Akron, Ohio native, Staff Sgt. Egli, one of Roy’s platoon sergeants.
Nearly six months ago, the Ironhorse Brigade deployed for the last time to southern Iraq, operating primarily out of two locations: Contingency Operating Stations Kalsu and Echo.
During the deployment, the Ironhorse Team donated hundreds of school and medical kits to local Iraqis, transported millions of dollars worth of equipment out of Iraq and worked to secure hundreds of miles of road to safely move over 30,000 soldiers.
Col. Scott Efflandt, Ironhorse commander, believes the U.S. military and the Ironhorse Brigade left Iraq better than they found it.
“I am proud of what we have done here,” Efflandt, a native of Illinois, said.
On Oct. 21, President Barrack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, formally announced to the American public that the 2008 Security of Forces Agreement would be fulfilled by the end of the year, and spoke about the future relationship between Iraq and the U.S.
“But even as we mark this important milestone, we’re also moving into a new phase in the relationship between the United States and Iraq,” Obama said in his speech. “As of Jan. 1, and in keeping with our Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq, it will be a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect.”
The brigade transferred COS Kalsu and Echo to the Government of Iraq in December, marking the end of Ironhorse’s final mission in Iraq.
“We are looking forward to the responsibility we have before us,” Minister of Defense, Ali Asaady said at the transfer ceremony of COS Kalsu. “We will miss the American and coalition forces, but we are ready to resume control.”
Although this historical event will soon be studied in schools and fill the history books, Efflandt believes that soldiers will not realize the importance of being part of this mission for another 10 to 15 years.
With the completion of Operation New Dawn at hand, and all Ironhorse soldiers in Kuwait, the brigade prepares for its next mission.