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Staff Sgt. Charles Warne, of Glen Willard, Pa., and Spc. Levi Lavalla of Georgia, Vt., build a tower platform at Combat Outpost Salie in Narwan, Iraq. The two joined fellow soldiers from the 8th Battalion, 64th Combat Engineers to help build the base from scratch within 30 days.
Staff Sgt. Charles Warne, of Glen Willard, Pa., and Spc. Levi Lavalla of Georgia, Vt., build a tower platform at Combat Outpost Salie in Narwan, Iraq. The two joined fellow soldiers from the 8th Battalion, 64th Combat Engineers to help build the base from scratch within 30 days. (Erik Slavin / S&S)
Staff Sgt. Charles Warne, of Glen Willard, Pa., and Spc. Levi Lavalla of Georgia, Vt., build a tower platform at Combat Outpost Salie in Narwan, Iraq. The two joined fellow soldiers from the 8th Battalion, 64th Combat Engineers to help build the base from scratch within 30 days.
Staff Sgt. Charles Warne, of Glen Willard, Pa., and Spc. Levi Lavalla of Georgia, Vt., build a tower platform at Combat Outpost Salie in Narwan, Iraq. The two joined fellow soldiers from the 8th Battalion, 64th Combat Engineers to help build the base from scratch within 30 days. (Erik Slavin / S&S)
Soldiers help lower concrete barriers in place at Combat Outpost Salie.
Soldiers help lower concrete barriers in place at Combat Outpost Salie. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

NARWAN, Iraq — As sunset prayers played through a mosque tower’s loudspeakers across the street, soldiers worked on sprucing up their new home.

Combat Outpost Salie still needs a few finishing touches, but the 3rd Infantry Division began moving soldiers to its newest post Thursday.

A couple of years ago, U.S. commanders pondered “smaller footprints” and isolated bases in Iraq. Combat Outpost Salie is about 50 yards away from a large outdoor market and it is surrounded by homes, businesses and a communications tower. It also connects to an Iraqi police station.

Its existence is a reflection of the Army’s new counterinsurgency strategy to live within neighborhoods instead of just patrolling them, say officers from the 3rd Brigade’s 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery.

Some soldiers said that when they first began flattening the earth in mid-October, they were surprised at how many rooftops could be seen from the site. However, Narwan has been peaceful in recent months and construction went very smoothly over 30 days, said Maj. Luis Rivera, 1-10 battalion executive officer.

“The only ‘attack’ during construction was when a contractor was threatened while putting up T-walls,” said Rivera, of Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.

Guard towers and 360-degree surveillance also will keep the base secure, Rivera said.

Earlier this year, Shiite extremists fired rockets at Forward Operating Base Hammer from Narwan. Since then, however, Shiite insurgents have been relatively quiet in what is now an almost entirely Shiite town of about 100,000 people.

If they rose up again to attack Salie, they would be firing perilously close to Shiite property, as well as the mostly Shiite Iraqi police building. They would be held accountable by their friends and neighbors, said battalion commander Lt. Col. Mark Sullivan.

“If they try to shoot at us and miss, they’re going to pay for it,” Sullivan said.

Soldiers from the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment attached to 1-10 will live at the base with 1-10’s command; soldiers from other units will likely join them, officials said.

The soldiers have mixed feelings about leaving the more isolated and much larger Forward Operating Base Hammer.

“It’s definitely better that this becomes our battle area,” said Pfc. Josiah Greer, of Orem, Utah. “The transit time is a lot shorter and here… everything here focuses on us.”

A small dining facility, meager recreation and bare-bones facilities for now represent the downside, Greer and others said.

An Internet cafe and other amenities are scheduled to be up and running by Dec. 15, Rivera said.

The outpost is named for Sgt. 1st Class David Salie, who died on Feb. 14, 2005, on the streets of Baqouba.

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