Sunday, March 2, 2008

1-15 Inf. Regt. Builds Progress and an Outpost

Local workers from al Duraiya, a small village south of Salman Pak, Iraq, clear debris at Combat Outpost Carver, Feb. 27. One hundred local workers were hired by the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team to help set up COP Carver.

By Spc. Ben Hutto, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – When told that he and his Soldiers would be setting up the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team’s newest combat outpost with only a little more than three months left in their deployment, 1st Sgt. Arvento Collins was ready.

“We get orders and we execute,” said Collins, from Wilson, N.C., Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. “It wasn’t any different than any other task we’ve been given.”

Collin’s company inherited a piece of land located next to the Tigris River near al Duraiya, a small village near Salman Pak, that had been used by extremists as a safe haven since the 3rd HBCT arrived in March 2007.

First Lt. Ivan Eno, platoon leader for second platoon, Company B, said the area south of Salman Pak was sparsely populated with many abandoned homes and farms for enemy fighters to hide in.

A significant consideration was the size of the outpost; COP Carver is one of the largest outposts the 3rd HBCT has set up.

“The size of this COP is definitely the biggest challenge,” Collins said. “We had to change our security plan so that we could have the right amount of Soldiers on guard. As with everything, security is always our number one priority.”

The 3rd HBCT engineers wasted no time enclosing the outpost’s perimeter with 12-foot concrete barriers. The 1-15th Inf. Regt. also hired 100 local workers to help fill sandbags, remove rubble, set up the barriers and lay concertina wire.

“They have done a good job so far,” said Master Sgt. Heath Pottiger, from Carlisle, Pa., the operations non-commissioned officer for Headquarters Company, 1-15th Inf. Regt. “We showed them how we wanted the concertina wire hung and they have hung a three strand fence that was up to standard. They come here every morning and work hard.”

In addition to obtaining a reliable workforce, the local hires are strengthening Company B’s relationship with the community.

“The hires have helped build goodwill with the people here,” Collins said. “We have also provided water and some medical aid to the people, but the jobs we are providing really helps the community because it puts more money back into the local economy. We have met with many of the local sheiks and tribal leaders and they are glad that we are here.”

In addition to outside assets, 1-15th Inf. Regt. has its very own four-man building team dedicated to getting COP Carver up and running.

Staff Sgt. Jorge Sanchez, from Pine Mountain, Ga., an infantryman in Headquarters Company, is in charge of a crew that does most of the carpentry work and upgrades on the temporary housing at COP Carver.

“We are just trying to get the living areas up to standard before we go home,” he said. “If we can get the living areas squared away, the units that replace us will have an easier time getting established when they arrive.”

Sanchez admitted it can be hard work, but believes he and his Soldiers play an important role in making missions happen at the outpost.

“The busier we stay out here, the better it is for everyone,” he said. “It gives more Soldiers here more time to rest and more relaxing surroundings. It’s a challenge sometimes, but we get the job done.”

Pottiger said that the perimeter of the outpost is 90 percent complete. The interior development of the outpost still has a long way to go, in his opinion, but he feels his Soldiers are well ahead of schedule.

“We are going to get a lot done in a short amount of time,” he said. “We will have a water filtration system installed in the next day or two … we will be installing showers next week. It’s getting better here.”

The 1-15 Inf. Regt. is assigned to the 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.

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