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Building Summers

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Pallets of building materials float to the desert floor near Patrol Base Summers on March 16. The patrol base is currently under construction near Suwayrah, 20 miles south of Baghdad. Photographer: Sgt. Ben Brody, Multi-National Division-Central.


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Staff Sgt. David Aleman of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, attached to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, pulls security at a farmhouse during Operation Marne Rugged, March 15. Photographer: Sgt. Ben Brody, Multi-National Division-Central.

The story of setting up a patrol base in a new territory is after the Jump.

PB Summers Takes Shape
Story by Sgt. Ben Brody
Posted on 03.19.2008 at 03:14PM

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – In a bid to establish a formidable U.S. security presence near Suwayrah, Iraq, Soldiers began construction of Patrol Base Summers amid the ruins of a former Iraqi air force base on March 15.

In a huge convoy of fighting vehicles and tractor trailers, Soldiers from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, attached to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, pushed toward the Tigris River from Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq.

In stark contrast to the push to set up Patrol Base Kelsey, Iraq, in December, Soldiers encountered almost no resistance and found the destroyed base uninhabited.

“I think there was a ‘shock and awe’ effect on the local people, to see so much combat power arrive so suddenly,” explained Capt. James Browning, Company A commander.

As part of the company secured the patrol base area, Company A’s Red Platoon and Iraqi army soldiers swept through a neighboring village, shaking hands and greeting their new neighbors over chai.

Their Bradleys and Humvees idling on the main road, Soldiers spent nearly eight hours walking from house to house by the shortest route possible – often through barnyards full of huge cows.

“It’s sometimes tough to tell when you first meet people, but the Iraqis seem pretty receptive to us being here,” said 1st Lt. Stephen Eldridge, Company A fire support officer. “Some people offered us chai, and they were all waving to us when we left. We certainly did our best to make a good first impression.”

Soldiers from Red Platoon and Iraqi troops cataloged residents’ personal weapons and met with the village sheik.During the patrol, a group of children followed the Soldiers around, cracking jokes and trying out their English on the troops.

One boy of about four had a filthy, bloodstained bandage wrapped around his head – his father said he was hit by a rock while playing with other children.

Pfc. Vince Richardson, a medic with Company A, set down his 50-pound aid bag and went to work, cleaning the wound and replacing the dressing. The boy winced, but didn’t cry, as Richardson dabbed the wound with antiseptic.

As Red Platoon returned to PB Summers, a small dust storm rolled in, turning the sky a deep red. The Soldiers ate a quick meal and slept in their trucks, waiting for their next mission that night.

Around midnight, the platoon set out into the desert surrounding the patrol base and climbed one of the many small ordnance bunkers that dot the area. After some slipping and sliding on the smooth, steeply angled concrete roof, the troops pulled each other to the top.

After a few hours silently scanning the windswept desert, the platoon slid two by two down the bunker and hiked back to Summers.

The next morning, another convoy of flatbed trucks bearing concrete barriers and other fortifications arrived, and an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet airdropped 40 pallets of construction materials near the patrol base.

As the huge green parachutes floated to the desert floor, a passing Bedouin goat herder jumped up and down, shouting at the sky.

Soldiers from 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th BCT, gathered up the pallets with a forklift and trucked them to Summers.

“We did the airdrop because we could, not because we had to,” said 2nd Lt. Scott Dyer, the convoy security platoon leader for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 703rd BSB. “The air assets were available, and there’s plenty of space – it’s a good experience for the logistics personnel.”

Soldiers from 703rd BSB will continue to bring supplies and Company A will continue to build up the base during the last two months of their deployment, Browning said.

“By the time we leave, I’d like to see the patrol base fully operational, to the point where a company can come in and set up their operations in 24 hours,” said Browning, who is from Waynesville, N.C.

The base will serve as a launching point for essential services projects to the neighboring communities and Suwayrah, as well as combat operations.

“Tactically, this spot is key to controlling the larger brigade’s area of operations – you can stage lots of equipment here and there’s a good standoff distance from civilian roads and houses,” Browning said. “Partnering with the Iraqi security forces, we can make inroads into Suwayrah.”

Lt. Col. Majid, commander of Suwayrah’s 3rd battalion, 3rd brigade, 8th IA Division, sends his troops to work with Company A on joint patrols.

“The big thing here is providing essential services to the people – they’re proud of their communities and fought hard to kick al-Qaida out,” Browning said. “The farmers here depend on their crops, which means they need water and electricity. With us here, we can help the government of Iraq provide those services.”

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