2-2 BCT adjusts to life on remote combat outposts
ARLINGTON, Va. — The 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team has been in Baghdad at its darkest point for U.S. troops.
The 5,000 troops under Col. Jeffrey Bannister have worked their way through the security “surge,” pushing out from Forward Operating Base Loyalty and into remote combat outposts.
And now, less than two months before heading home to Fort Carson, Colo., the brigade is reaping the benefits, Bannister said Wednesday by telephone from FOB Loyalty.
“It’s something to say, that we were part of that change,” Bannister said. “Without a doubt, it feels good.”
The 2-2 BCT operates in East Baghdad, “over here in Shia-land,” Bannister said, in an area known as New Baghdad.
The counterinsurgency plan U.S. military commanders developed in conjunction with the “surge” called for U.S. troops to move out from the large FOBs and start living among the population.
To put this strategy into action, U.S. military worked with Iraqis to create 71 joint security stations in Baghdad, mostly occupied by Iraqi security troops but supported by U.S. forces.
The U.S. commanders also built combat outposts for U.S. troops, in neighborhoods where Iraqi police have not traditionally been present.
Bannister said he has 20 joint security stations in his area of operations, which are “very Iraqi-heavy,” and 11 combat outposts.
Beginning in May, the 2-2’s platoons began doing “five-and-two” rotations at the outposts: five days in the outposts, then two days rest.
“When we first pushed out into the heat, it was pretty dreadful,” Bannister said. “But then we got air conditioning,” and gradually other amenities, such as exercise equipment.
“What they really miss now is the food,” since the outposts don’t have dining facilities, Bannister said.
After five days, the troops get two days back at Loyalty, where they can hit the Internet cafes, do laundry, and otherwise enjoy the amenities of the “mothership.”
At any given time, 75 percent of a platoon will be at a combat outpost, while the other 25 percent is at Loyalty, Bannister said.
Bannister also credited the improvement in security in his sector to the cease-fire ordered by the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
What would really make a difference, Bannister said, if Sadr, who has not been seen since February, would “go public pretty soon, and get on television and radio, and himself say these things, instead of it coming through messengers.”