Soldiers from the 13th Georgian Infantry Battalion and 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, speak with an Iraqi policeman while on a patrol in Iraq.
By Spc. Justin Snyder
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers stationed at Combat Outpost Cleary have been working closely with soldiers from Georgia as part of Task Force Petro.
Task Force Petro is a combined effort involving the Georgian forces along with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, to bring peace to Iraq and improve living conditions both on and off of COP Cleary.
The 13th Georgian Infantry Battalion’s progress as a unit has been phenomenal, said Capt. Christopher Rehnberg, from Norfolk, Conn., a member of the liason team, 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div.
He credits this to the 3rd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., for their hard work with the Georgians.
“The 3rd HBCT has set a high standard for (the 2nd BCT) coming in here,” Rehnberg said. “We plan to build upon that and gain trust with the Georgians.”
Rehnberg said both forces are working together to make the Mada’in Qada a more safe and secure place. Upcoming projects include building water pumps for agricultural needs, and building housing for Iraqi contractors while they work on COP Cleary.
Rehnberg also points out that up to this point, the Georgians have built everything on COP Cleary.
“These soldiers are hard working and passionate about their work,” Rehnberg said. “They did an outstanding job building the COP. We are their guests here.”
Rehnberg can speak for their work ethic since he spent time with the Georgians prior to arriving in Iraq. He was a participant in the Georgian Sustainment and Stability Operation Program, a project aimed to help the Georgians become members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
He said there is a small cultural barrier between the two units, but the distance is closing on a daily basis.
“We are learning each other’s language, plus we are both learning Arabic. Every day communication gets better,” Rehnberg said.
The Georgians pride and joy on COP Cleary is a church they built from the ground up. The church includes a picket fence and a small bell tower.
Zaza Arsoshvili, a medic in the 13th Georgian Infantry Battalion, said Georgia has been a Christian region for over 16 centuries. He said having the church on the COP helps soldiers feel more comfortable while away from home.
“Faith is very important in our country,” Arsoshvili said. “The church is like a small piece of home for the soldiers.”
Arsoshvili said that the Sledgehammer Soldiers of the 3rd BCT set very high standards for Georgians and made them stronger as a battalion. While the Iron Brigade Soldiers have just begun working with the Georgians, he believes their relationship will prosper over the coming months.
“First impressions are very important and theirs was very good,” Arsoshvili said. “They are new blood and have new ideas. They can only make us better.”
Rehnberg agrees with that assessment and believes that together, Georgian and American Soldiers can improve Iraq. Over the next 15 months, the 2nd BCT and Georgian forces will assist Iraqis in repairing infrastructure and help set conditions for long-term stability in Iraq.
“These guys are our comrades,” Rehnberg said. “We need them to help complete our mission.”
The 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., from Baumholder, Germany, is replacing the 3rd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., in the Mada’in Qada in Eastern Iraq.