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BAGHDAD — The first part of a painstaking transition from the 1st Armored Division to the 1st Cavalry Division is under way.

Members of the 1st Cavalry’s 2nd Brigade Combat team, who arrived last week, already are riding along with 1st AD soldiers to learn the finer points of stability operations in Baghdad.

But even before the brigade arrived, it had built on the lessons learned from its predecessors, unit commander Col. Michael Formica said Monday.

The 3,000-soldier combat team, called the Blackjack Brigade, brought 90 Abrams M1A2 tanks to Iraq. But it will rely more heavily on its 120 armored Humvees to move through the city.

“That provides us a greater amount of flexibility,” Formica said during a news conference in Baghdad.

Troops from the Fort Hood, Texas-based 1st Cavalry — accustomed to shooting artillery rounds — got extra training in how to be ground-pounding infantrymen, Formica said.

In addition, the brigade’s officers and noncommissioned officers received cultural training in Jordan to prepare them for dealing with the predominantly Muslim population.

The division also intends to display a rudimentary knowledge of Arabic language and customs, Formica said.

“We will arrive culturally aware of the Arab culture and Islamic traditions,” Formica said.

The adaptations are a common Army response to the fluid nature of any mission, said Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, assistant 1st Armored Division commander for support.

The lighter, more mobile 2nd Brigade will take over duties for the 1st AD’s 3rd Brigade, based in Fort Riley, Kan. Their area of responsibility is primarily on the west side of the city.

By April, the 1st Cavalry Division will lead an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 soldiers in the Baghdad metropolitan area. At its peak, the 1st AD and troop contingents under its command numbered 37,000, Hertling said.

The two divisions are swapping information, intelligence and troops in the midst of another transition. In the coming months, the U.S. military will shrink its presence in the Baghdad area from 26 to eight base camps, most located farther out on the city’s perimeter.

The change is meant to hasten Iraq’s reliance on its own police and civil defense corps, both of which are being trained by the U.S. military. And it is meant to lesson the “distress” some Iraqis feel by having major U.S. military camps in the center of the city, Hertling said.

The official transition of authority from the Wiesbaden, Germany-based 1st Armored Division to the 1st Cavalry Division takes place April 15.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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