Fort Lewis’ 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division is witnessing far less violence and conducting fewer operations on its third deployment to Iraq.
The Stryker brigade of about 4,000 soldiers is running American military operations in Diyala province. For many who fought amid the daily chaos of two years ago, the difference is stark.
“Most of us are going through a real culture shock,” Maj. Matthew Holly said in a telephone interview from his office at Forward Operating Base Warhorse. “It’s an almost-180-degree turn in Baqouba than two years ago.”
Holly is the operations officer for the brigade’s 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. Soldiers from the battalion have been attacked twice in the past month and have yet to get into a firefight with insurgents; during the unit’s 2006-07 deployment, Holly said the troops would be attacked five times before noon.
Roadside bombs, the common killer of American service members in Iraq, appear to be weaker and less sophisticated than before.
Soldiers have teamed with their Iraqi army and police counterparts. The days of a platoon of American soldiers raiding a target without major Iraqi support are effectively finished.
“Raid would be the wrong word,” said Holly, who lives in DuPont. “We’ve done some cordon-and-searching, but now it’s more like a ‘cordon and knock.’ We’re not kicking in doors.”