Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Remaining soldiers to return


Even though his prime concern is ensuring a seamless transfer of authority at FOB Hammer in Iraq, Col. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr. is also keeping close tabs on those 3rd Brigade soldiers who have already redeployed to Fort Benning.

"So far, so good," Grigsby said Tuesday evening from his office at Hammer, noting that all returning soldiers have begun their mandatory reintegration training.

"And," he said, "we just sent 300 more Sledgehammer soldiers to Kuwait. I believe our transportation problems are over and that the next two flights coming home are on schedule."

More members of the advance, or torch, party are expected to arrive at Lawson Army Airfield at 7:45 p.m. on Friday. The next group is due to land on May 7.

Much of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, a unit headquartered in Germany, have already arrived at Hammer.

Grigsby has been escorting his successor, Col. Pete White, around the provincial Mada'in Qada area, introducing him and his staff to key leaders in the Iraqi Army and police.

"I know there's some anxiety surrounding the fact that we're leaving," Grigsby said. "After all, we were the first unit to come into this qada and since then violence is down and there's a vast improvement in the economy. But I reassure them that of the five 'surge' brigades, we're the only one being replaced. There's really no reason for them to worry."

In a recent meeting with Army, police and civic leaders, Grigsby addressed some of their concerns.

He discussed the transition between the 3rd Brigade and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team from Smith Barracks, Germany.

"I am confident that all of the great leaders in this room will give the incoming unit the same support we received during our stay here."

Grigsby emphasized that, during his brigade's time in the area, he always encouraged his Iraqi partners to determine what was best for the qada.

"The Coalition force solution is not the solution," he said to his fellow leaders. "Your solutions are what are important. I have always tried to support your decisions to help make this area better. So far, we have been very successful because of your guidance and insight."

Once all of his battalions return to Kelly Hill by the end of May, he'll have all of his soldiers in the same location for the first time in 15 months. Almost 65 percent of the 3,800 soldier force was stationed at combat outposts away from FOB Hammer.

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