By Spc. Justin Snyder
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – After three months of spending countless hours with the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, Sabah Almeka decided he wanted to recognize the unit for their accomplishments in Iraq.
The bilingual bicultural adviser from Holland didn’t know he would like working with the cavalry unit so much when he first started. However, Almeka said he grew to love and respect the unit as he supported their efforts in Marne Dauntless, a 15-month mission focused on helping Iraqi people obtain a better way of life.
“The commanders in this unit work 16-hour days sometimes,” said Almeka, a former colonel in the Iraqi Air Force. “They do it because they love their job and care about what they are doing in Iraq. I’m very lucky to be working with this group.”
Working with the 3-1 Cav. Regt., he relayed information on upcoming projects in support of Marne Dauntless. The mission required the 3-1 Cav. Regt. Soldiers to provide security and perform stability operations throughout the Jisr Dyala area of Iraq, said Lt. Col. John Kolasheski, from Loudon, Tenn., 3-1 Cav. Regt. commander.
“We wanted to expand services to the people of Iraq that they didn’t have before,” Kolasheski said.
Over the past 14 months, the Soldiers worked alongside local Iraqi leaders and contractors to help build new soccer fields, basketball courts, playgrounds and schools. Other operations included handing out toys and soccer balls to local children. Most importantly, Soldiers worked hand in hand with the Sons of Iraq to provide security.
“Those projects were a key part of our operation, but bad people were still out there,” Kolasheski said. “The Sons of Iraq helped move us forward by keeping pressure on the enemy.”
Kolasheski said security was the key element to the operation’s success.
“We didn’t just talk about helping, we went out there and did it,” he said. “I feel we have helped make Iraq into a positive environment for the locals and given hope where hope might not have existed.”
In his three months with the 3-1 Cav. Regt, Almeka saw the same progress and the unit’s support for the government and people of Iraq.
“It was all I could do to go out and show people what the coalition was doing,” he said.
Almeka traveled to the International Zone in Baghdad, where he met with numerous Iraqi committees and leaders. He relayed the projects the cavalry regiment was accomplishing and asked for something to give them. When he spoke with the chief of the Iraqi Olympic Committee about the new soccer fields and balls, he found they wanted to help him.
Following their discussion, Almeka received a certificate and a plaque to present to the unit commander. Kolasheski gladly accepted the plaque and is happy the 3-1 Cav. Regt. could help the children of Iraq.
“It’s really neat to be recognized on a national level,” Kolasheski said. “We were able to provide the children the opportunity for normalcy. The soccer field and balls offer the children an alternative behavior and give them pride in their neighborhood.”
The 3-1 Cav. Regt., 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.