HADITHAH DAM, Iraq -- Marines and Sailors of 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment welcomed Italian Brig. Gen. Antonio Satta to Haditha Dam for a meeting with Marine and Azerbaijani commanders today.
Satta briefly addressed the Azerbaijani soldiers in English using the help of an Azerbaijani soldier acting as an English translator. The general spoke for about ten minutes, stressing the importance of the Azerbaijani presence in Iraq.
“Without the help of the coalition, the new Iraq will fail. That’s why your contribution is fundamental,” explained Satta.
There is a reinforced company of Azerbaijani soldiers at “the dam.” They are responsible for providing the internal security of the dam, giving Marine commanders the flexibility to attack and dismantle the insurgency.
The general related the situation here to his homeland’s struggle for a freely elected government. “In Europe, we know that the way to democracy is a long way,” said Satta.
After addressing the Azerbaijani formation, the general met with the Commanding Officer of 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, Lt. Col. Lionel B. Urquhart, to discuss the challenges of the constantly evolving security situation here. The Azerbaijani Commanding Officer, Maj. Elkhan Shalbuzov, joined the discussion, specifically addressing new patterns in enemy activity.
Insurgents have recently used hospitals and mosques as staging grounds for coordinated ambushes. Three Marines and a Navy corpsman were killed just weeks ago when a suicide vehicle detonated as part of an attack coordinated from within a hospital in Haditha. Improvised explosive devices (IED) are being employed in everything, including animal carcasses.
While the United States has tracked an evolution of terrorist tactics from the start of the war, Italy entered the conflict after the insurgency was born. Therefore, frequent meetings between Italian leadership and the rest of the coalition keeps all members up to date with the latest intelligence.
Italy has been part of the peacekeeping force in Iraq since its Parliament issued a mandate shortly after President Bush declared major combat operations were over.
There are approximately 3,000 Italian troops concentrated in the southeastern part of the country. Their mission is the reconstruction and training of Iraqi troops rather than conducting large scale operations and raids like the Marines.
“Azerbaijan and Italy don’t have a particularly strong relationship either here or at home, but I strongly believe that periodic meetings among coalition leadership, like today, is necessary to keep all parties informed about new enemy tactics, techniques, and procedures,” stated Shalbuzov.
“Lessons learned by one should be lessons learned by all,” summarized Shalbuzov.