Col. Terry Wolff, commander of 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, based in Fort Polk, La.

Col. Terry Wolff, commander of 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, based in Fort Polk, La. (Marni McEntee / S&S)

BAGHDAD, Iraq — One of the oldest regiments serving on continuous active duty in the U.S. Army is stationed in the cradle of civilization.

The 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, from Fort Polk, La., was founded in 1836 to fight Florida’s Seminole Indians, said Maj. Michael Simpson, the regiment’s adjutant.

“They needed a soldier to fight in the infantry and on horseback,” Simpson said. So the “dragoon,” as such warriors were called, was born.

The 2nd ACR has changed over the years to fit its mission. During the Cold War, the regiment was fully outfitted with Bradley fighting vehicles and tanks. After the draw down of U.S. forces in Europe, the regiment moved from several bases in Germany, including Bamberg and Amberg, back to Fort Lewis, Wash. The unit moved to Fort Polk in the mid-1990s.

In recent years, the Army’s push to be a lighter, more mobile force has prompted the 2nd ACR to shed much of its heavy armor in favor of more maneuverable vehicles.

“Now our horse is the Humvee,” Simpson, 38, of Stroud, Okla., said.

The regiment, however, is to be among the first to receive the Army’s new Stryker armored vehicle, Simpson said.

Roughly 4,000 2nd ACR members arrived in Baghdad in early April, said Col. Terry Wolff, the regimental commander. Its soldiers are in charge of Thawra, a 72-square-block zone in northeast Baghdad populated by 1.8 million people.

The dense area begs for a flexible force, Wolff said. The 2nd ACR has three ground squadrons, including scout troops, an artillery squadron and an aviation squadron equipped with OH-58 Kiowa and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

“Because we’re a light, mobile organization, we’re ideally suited for this operation,” said Wolff, 45, of Elk Grove, Calif. “We can get around the city quite readily.”

The 2nd ACR hit the ground running. It operates 180 patrols every 24 hours, using about 300 Humvees.

“When you can put more patrols on the ground, you’ll find more thieves, muggers, carjackers and common criminals,” Wolff said.

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