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US forces can no longer patrol cities. So what will the 130,000 troops be doing?
Lt. Col. Shawn Reed, commander of the 1-5 Infantry battalion which was previously responsible for much of Baquba, said many have portrayed the shift as relegating thousnads of soliders to bases, but he doubts that would be a likely outcome. “Number one, we know how dangerous that can be, and number two, while we’re here, there’s still a lot of work to be done and that can be achieved even though we can’t go into the cities.”
With a slower mission pace, many units have begun conducting refresher courses for their soldiers on base, practicing everything from room clearing to weapons maintenance.
“We would never let it get to where there’s too much downtime,” said Capt. Dave Plummer, the operations officer for 1-5 Infantry battalion.
While the rank and file of the U.S. military is involved in training Iraqi security forces, the advisory portion of the mission will arguably keep those at the top much busier. For those on the bottom of the totem pole, it is likely to mean more missions providing security while their commanders are in meetings, missions that combat soldiers traditionally regard as boring.
"The pace is slowing down compared to our last tour,” said Staff Sgt. Nicolas Chrabot, a soldier in the 3-21 Infantry battalion. “It shows people that they’re capable of taking control of their own country, [but] every infantrymen wants to be in the fight.”
U.S. officials say while there may be a brief lull in activity immediately after June 30, within several weeks their troops will be just as busy as before.
“I’m not going leave here half stepping. I’m going to leave here going full bore,” said Col. Burt Thompson, commander of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team. “Right now full bore is described as full bore in my partnership with Iraqi security forces, my support to civil capacity — read the governance — and to set conditions for the next brigade coming in here.”
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