MILITARY REPORT: Fort Wainwright soldiers continue mission in Iraq as deployment nears end
Fort Wainwright soldiers with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division resumed their mission of assisting and training Iraqi forces in the ongoing fight against the terror group ISIS. In January, operations were paused due to rocket attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq.
“We partner with several operational commands with the Iraqis across the northern part of the country, and we paused our operations for several weeks to focus on our own force protection. The Iraqis by in large kept the fight on. As the situation allows over the near term, we look forward to getting back to supporting them again,” said Col. Matthew W. Brown, commander of the 1st Stryker Brigade 25th Infantry Division.
These soldiers from Fort Wainwright are in Iraq and Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, a mission to advise and assist the Iraqi military to defeat ISIS and increase regional stability.
“Along with the rest of the Coalition, our soldiers remain committed to our partnership with Iraqi Security Forces and keeping the pressure on Daesh (ISIS), and at the same time we’re helping our Iraqi partners develop the capabilities for them to secure their country in the long term,” said Brown.
According to Public Affairs Officer with the brigade, Maj. Charlie Dietz, the soldiers from Fort Wainwright represent roughly half of the approximately 5,200 U.S. troops in Iraq to assist, advise, and train Iraqi forces as part of the Global Coalition Against Daesh (ISIS).
“There has clearly been a lot of uncertainty over the last months, but our soldiers and their ability to accomplish their mission have remained very certain. I am proud of every single one of them and the partnerships we have maintained with the Iraqis. As we’ve moved through the last several months, Iraqis have provided a lot of our security for us,” said Brown.
On January 8, there was a missile attack on al-Asad air base.
"January 8th was pretty crazy, it was a little scary, and it wasn't really anything we had expected. You know we are ready for anything but that it was something different. We were notified to get to the bunkers, we were like 'oh what's happening?' We didn't really know what was happening. It turned out there were a whole bunch of missiles that had come,” said Specialist Adan Merlan, a soldier with the 1/25 SBCT.
Soldiers say after the missile attacks it was high stress, and then they started to get back to their lives in Iraq.
"We came together, we've rethought our mission, we’ve rethought our battle positions, we've prepared, we’re stay[ing] vigilant," said Spc. Anthony Porter, a soldier with the 1/25 SBCT.
"The job hasn't changed much; the sense of security went up a lot, just on our toes a little bit more, just seeing how we can make things better around here to be more secure for us and everyone else,” said Pfc. Zachary Blair, a soldier with the 1/25 SBCT.
After some of the high stress moments with the missile attacks and life in Iraq, the soldiers find different ways to relieve some of the stress.
"We have plenty of internet, we have the PX, we have the gym, beautiful gym at al-Asad and we like to go and workout together, and nobody can beat gaming,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Ewald, a soldier with the 1/25 SBCT.
"Mostly the gym and listening to music," said Blair.
"We play a lot of cards, watch a lot of movies, a couple of the guys have projectors and they play movies," said 1st Lt. Nathaniel Dietrich, a soldier with the 1/25 SBCT.
The soldiers are expected to return from their nine-month deployment in May and early June.
“The Iraqi people know that ISIS remains a low-level, but [a] persistent threat,” stated Brown. “In some areas that are relatively hard for us to get to, Daesh continues to intimidate local villagers and conduct other illicit activities to fund their strain of terrorism. We’re continuing to work with our partners to get after all that.”