Schofield brigade leaves mark on Iraq province


POSTED: Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Nearly 3,600 Schofield Barracks soldiers will leave one of northern Iraq's most volatile and violent provinces as one of “;the most secure,”; says Col. Walter Piatt, commander of the 25th Infantry Division's 3rd Bronco Brigade Combat Team.

Piatt has spent a year leading a government rebuilding effort and will turn over responsibility of Salah ad Din province to the 4th Dragon Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, tomorrow.

For the past year the Bronco Brigade worked in the key cities of Kirkuk, Tikrit, Bayji, Mosul, Sa-marra and Balad.

In poverty-stricken Mosul during an earlier 2007 deployment, the 3rd Brigade fought to keep al-Qaida from resurgence in the rest of Iraq. Piatt served as operations officer for the 25th Division in 2007.





        The 25th Division's 3rd Bronco Brigade Combat Team, which spent a year in Iraq, will be honored at a welcome ceremony Nov. 19 at Fort Shafter. During the past year, some of the 3,600 brigade soldiers were awarded the following medals:

» Bronze Star: six for valor; 749 for service (the service awards are for the whole tour, valor is for a specific event)
        » Army Commendation Medal: 12 for valor; 2,748 for service
        >> Purple Heart: 40
        » Combat Infantry Badge: 619
        » Combat Medic Badge: 15
        » Combat Action Badge: 1,713


Source: 3rd Brigade


In a phone interview from Contingency Operating Base Speicher near Tikrit, Piatt said, “;People who come here from other provinces are very impressed with the government and how things are working so well in this province. It is really encouraging.”;

At one time the province was the leading agriculture area in Iraq, Piatt said. “;Through the years of wars and destruction, it has become one of the poorest provinces in Iraq.”;

It was the scene of some of the more brutal battles in Iraq.

“;The violence has steadily decreased in Salah ad Din due to many factors. It is due to U.S. forces before and after the surge. It is due to the Sons of Iraq (volunteer security forces). It is due to the success of the provincial elections.”;

Piatt said that 65 percent of Salah ad Din's largely Sunni population voted in the January provincial elections, the highest turnout in the country.

More than 100,000 Sons of Iraq, who originally were paid by the U.S. as a citizen security force, have been assimilated into the Iraqi army.

Piatt said Salah ad Din province has “;one of the best trained”; Iraqi army divisions, along with “;one of the best-trained and best-led”; local police forces.


“;I think our strategy of training the local police forces and army forces and then securing the population has paid off,”; said Piatt.

As for the future of Iraq, Piatt said the people and leaders there “;look to the U.S. for help and advice on how to compete for foreign investment. They are trying to bring foreign investors so they can improve their economy, their strategic infrastructure and the natural resources this country has.”;

The Army has said Bronco soldiers completed 230 projects, including roadwork, 60 school renovation projects, the construction of seven new schools, 52 water projects providing new wells and water treatment facilities, and 11 electricity distribution and infrastructure renovations to hospitals and clinics.

During Bronco Brigade's third Iraq deployment — it was sent there in 2006 and 2008 — six brigade soldiers were killed.

Another Bronco soldier — Sgt. Miguel A. Vegaquinones — pleaded guilty at his July court-martial in Tikrit to involuntary manslaughter in the accidental shooting death of Pfc. Sean McCune, 20.

Vegaquinones, 33, was sentenced to three years in prison.

Last month, Spc. Beyshee O. Velez was charged in the shooting death of civilian contractor Lucas Vinson. Velez is being held in the Ford Island brig awaiting a preliminary hearing.

The brigade also served in Afghanistan in 2004.