BAGHDAD, Iraq — As soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division learn the streets of the Iraqi capital, they are adapting to last-minute changes to their mission and improving their living conditions.

While some Old Ironsides brigades had already established patrols in the city, many 1st Brigade soldiers were still arriving last week. By Wednesday, brigade officers were interfacing with commanders currently on patrol, while senior noncommissioned officers were establishing quarters.

Then, word came down to change their sectors of responsibility.

“When the military divided the city into its sectors, they weren’t aware of established districts,” said 2nd Lt. Sam Haines, a civil affairs liaison officer with 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment. “Baghdad was already sorted into districts based on demographics, level of affluence and religion.”

In recent months, soldiers operated within the military’s 55 sectors, said Maj. Packard Mills, 1st Brigade’s intelligence officer.

“Baghdad was divided into zones based on the need for information,” Mills said. “The military always divides an objective into subsectors to provide a common understanding of the battlefield.”

Soldier’s maps have retained the sectors, but also now are divided into nine major municipalities, Mills said.

Lt. Col. Pat White, of 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, learned of the last-minute changes on the drive from Kuwait. His unit, called the Iron Dukes, is also adjusting at record speed to learn its new area and find living quarters for the troops.

Tailoring the military sectors to the community will work for the troops, White said.

“It’s a better plan than what we had before,” White said. “Now we can focus on the municipalities.”

The timing for the change coincided well with the 1st Armored Division’s arrival, said Lt. Col. Gregory Reilly, 41, of Sacramento, Calif.

“Nobody had staked down their tents yet, so it was not that difficult for us to change,” Reilly said. “It really was the opportune time.”

While officers plan ways to face upcoming challenges, they are relying on soldiers to carry out security and stability operations.

“Initiative is gained and sustained in the neighborhoods, at the soldier’s level” Reilly said. “It’s the soldier on the ground, just like in battle, who will make the difference here.”

Still, it may take several weeks before they fully understand the scope of their mission, Reilly said. The first priority is to establish security, the people’s greatest concern, he said.

From there, soldiers will work to make visible improvements that show the Iraqis that their lives with improve. They must gain support from local professionals to bring services to the community, Reilly said. Then, the military must support the transition to an interim government, he said.

“They may have had a slow start, but now they are on the glide path to success,” said Col. Michael Tucker, 1st Brigade commander. “The Iraqi people have made a 180-degree turn. It will take time to do this thing right.”

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