On Patrol with the Quarter Cav
A modern day Band of Brothers on the streets of Baghdad.
12:00 AM, May 16, 2007 • By JEFF EMANUEL
"We are really like the 'Band of Brothers' in some ways," the 1st Brigade Combat Team's Public Affairs Officer (PAO), Major Kirk Luedeke, told me. "Just like the guys from the 101st Airborne Division depicted in [the miniseries], we are learning on the fly in the crucible of combat, and many of our team leaders and squad leaders haven't ever done this kind of thing before. But they're learning quickly and using sound judgment and leadership techniques each day. They're team leaders and squad leaders because their chain of command has recognized their potential and given them responsibilities that would normally have gone to guys with more time and deployment experience. The way we were constituted as a new brigade did not afford us the luxury of having a large percentage of experienced junior enlisted and NCOs, so we are a modern day 'Band Of Brothers' in that regard."
The soldiers of the 1-4 Cav (or "Quarter Cav," as they are known) allowed me to live with them at their Forward Operating Base (FOB) and at their Coalition Outpost (COP) for several days. I accompanied them around the clock on such missions as insurgent clearing operations, mounted and dismounted patrols, counter-IED missions, searches, raids, collaborative operations with the local sherda (Iraqi National Police, or NPs), and seizures of High Value Individuals (HVIs).
The squadron lacks experience, but the troops learn "on the fly"--especially from their mistakes. More difficult times doubtless lie ahead; however, the Squadron has also had its fair share of success. The platoons work efficiently as a team to carry out complex operations like raids and HVI seizures, which have in the past been almost solely the purview of experienced Special Operations units. And they do so with a degree of efficiency that makes it seem as though they've been at this for years.
Unfortunately, rather than being assigned to a single area of operations (AO) for the duration of its tour--sustained presence being a key point in the Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine--the unit will soon be assigned to its fourth AO in just over three months. Its cavalry, reconnaissance, and light infantry capabilities will be replaced in the current area by lumbering Stryker vehicles from the 2nd Infantry Division in Fort Lewis, and the 1-4 Cav will be moving north into the Doura quarter of the city to provide much-needed help.
The Quarter Cav's current area of responsibility is a region of southwestern Baghdad known as East Rashid, which is, in many ways, a microcosm of Iraq as a whole. Its diverse population includes Sunnis, Shias, and Christians, and good portions of its eastern neighborhoods are mixtures of at least two of the three. The western part of the district, though, is clearly defined along sectarian lines. The people in the north, predominantly Sunni, live in filth, fear, and squalor, and are suffering from an influx of brutal al Qaeda (AQI) terrorists. The people in the south, almost exclusively Shia, live in relative peace, security, and cleanliness. Though heavily populated by members of Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army (the Jaish al Mahdi, or JAM), this area, known as Abu Dischir, is currently a model of coexistence between sectarians and Coalition forces. The people there have decided not to allow their neighborhoods to fall victim to the violence that has plagued so many other parts of Baghdad.