For some American troops in Iraq, the “surge” has meant quickly finding — and securing — new bases from which to operate in urban areas.

Under the plan announced by President Bush in early January, scores of American combat units are taking up bases in the hearts of cities scarred by the insurgency. In the Baghdad district of Rustamiyah, for example, troops from Company C, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division found themselves living in their Humvees in a palm grove.

That temporary camp was replaced when the troops found a more permanent home in an abandoned building in Rustamiyah, southeast of Sadr City.

“It was a difficult sell to the soldiers, where, on [Forward Operating Base Rustamiyah] they are relatively safe, to come out here, where they always have to keep their guard up,” Capt. Joseph Rosen, the company commander, was quoted as saying in a military news release.

The new operating base for Company C turned out to be a former snack packaging plant that had been used as a base for insurgents, officials said. When the insurgents abandoned the building they burned most of it; some of the building was still on fire when the U.S. troops moved in, soldiers said.

Soon, the building was dubbed the “Cobra Cobana,” and security improvements were being made.

“There’s been no down time,” Rosen said. “Until we bring up the security, [there] won’t be a lot either … and we still go on patrols. Every day, we are thinking, ‘If I was an insurgent, how would I attack?’” Rosen said.

The new base is a microcosm of the Baghdad security plan. By putting a permanent U.S. and Iraqi presence in neighborhoods, military planners hope to cut down the insurgents’ freedom of movement and, perhaps more importantly, give local Iraqis confidence that the troops are going to stay.

But for some of the soldiers, the transition was tough at first to understand.

“We were like, ‘Why?’” Staff Sgt. Keith McDonald said in the release. “In the beginning, we were uncertain what our mission would be.”

Now, he says, the purpose is clearer.

“We want [people in the neighborhood] to feel safe. We want them to get their economy up. We want them to make money, so they can help themselves,” McDonald said.

“We are always out here; we are always in sector. Maybe when they see that, they will know we are here to help them, and I think that’s a big deal.”

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