AL QA’IM, Iraq --
Thomas Paine once wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Paine was writing about a newly formed American military in 1776, but even in 2007 his words mean just the same to the newly formed men of the 3rd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division.
“This is a historic moment for the future of Iraq,” said Col. H. Stacy Clardy, the commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team 2.
The men of the 3rd BDE recently celebrated their test of self-sufficiency where they commanded their own operation while Marines observed.
“The 3rd BDE demonstrated their ability to command and control multiple maneuver elements, while effectively coordinating combined operations with the Iraqi Police and Border Defense Forces,” said Lt. Col. Jason Q. Bohm, the commanding officer for Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, attached to RCT-2.
Task Force 1st Bn., 4th Marines, and the 3rd BDE worked jointly during three major operations in the Al Qa’im region. The Iraqi Army improved with each mission and eventually they were able to successfully lead entire operations by themselves.
The Marines of 1st Bn., 4th Marines, congratulated 3rd BDE’s chain of command with a feast at the Camp Al Qa’im dining facility. Each Iraqi soldier sat next to their Marine counterpart at the table showing equality and brotherhood between the two forces.
The 3rd Brigade is the second-to-last of the three brigades under 7th Division’s command to be validated. The nationwide recruiting drives for 3rd BDE were originally formed outside Al Anbar and moved into Nasariyah, Iraq.
“The initial recruiting drives were actually taking place outside of Al Anbar due to the violence in Al Anbar and Al Qa’im,” said Col. David M. Thompson, the Military Transition Team chief with RCT- 2.
This tribal mix of soldiers came back to Al Qa’im to free it from terrorism and fear.
“These operations, combined with the brigade commander’s personal engagement with the local community, resulted in an increase in the trust and confidence of the Iraqi Army in the eyes of the local populace,” Bohm said.
Their force is a model for the country of Iraq due to its mix of Sunni and Shiite men from different parts of the country.
“This fills all Iraqi categories of its people equally,” said Brig. Gen. Ishmayil Shihab Muhammed, the commanding officer of 3rd Brigade. “Iraqi patriots aren’t Sunni or Shiite, they are Iraqis.”
This united feeling is not only talked about, but also put into practice as the general’s own personal security detachment is made up of Shiite men. The general is a devout Sunni.
During their three major operations with Task Force 1st Bn., 4th Marines, (Harris Basil, Combined Justice and Iron Fist), 3rd Brigade patrolled through towns with the town’s local police forces. This unorthodox approach allowed the brigade to make successful steps before validating as a lone-standing operational force.
“The Iraqi police are good now, so we can be dedicated to fighting terrorism outside the area of operations,” Ishmayil said.
The brigadier general has one main focus concerning sectarian violence and Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorism tearing the country apart.
"One Iraq, one united Iraq, nothing else matters,” Ishmayil said.