Steel Tigers deter insurgents

By Pfc. Abel Trevino
28th Public Affairs Detachment

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — The Steel Tigers of Task Force 1-77 Armor, formed from Soldiers in 1st Battalion, 77th Armor and 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, has dedicated its time at LSA Anaconda to crossing the wire and protecting the post from attacks by Anti-Iraqi Forces.

"We are the deterrent to making sure [insurgents] don't shoot rockets and mortars [from our sector]," said 1st Lt. John Diego Clemens.

Direct attacks are part of the dangers that come with the primary mission of securing the post.

"The overall mission is the defense of LSA Anaconda, which consists of observing and monitoring areas of interest, also clearing areas of [explosive devices] and patrolling," Sgt. 1st Class Philip Eville said.

Intelligence reports assist in targeting hot spots and the task force goes to these areas and eliminates the threat, said Clemens.

The task force's methods produce positive results.

"Last month there were only two attacks from our [area of responsibility]," said Eville.

The Soldiers rely on Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and Humvees, but psychology is their main defense.

"Although we don't use our tanks all the time, it helps. It's a show of force," Eville said. "When we take our tanks out, there is generally less small arms fire."

Soldiers on foot patrols search vehicles and cordon local villages to take a census of the people living in each house.

Iraqis are allowed one rifle or handgun per household for protection, but not larger weapons systems such as anti-tank rifles or rocket-propelled devices.

"We ensure no one is connected to insurgents by verifying the number of weapons," said Sgt. Kenneth Thomas.

Soldiers remain highly visible during patrols and their presence in the local community increases the chances of attackers getting caught, said Sgt. 1st Class Jorge Diaz.

"At a minimum, we are out there [visible to local communities] eight hours a day," Clemens said.

This visibility acts as an intimidation factor and has kept the task force safe outside the wire.

"We stay out there, they see we're there and they don't want to mess with us," said Spc. Mario Jesus Reyes, a humvee driver and tank loader.

Being in large armored vehicles does not eliminate the threats the task force faces.

"It can be pretty dangerous," said Staff Sgt. Robert T. Ogborn. "Just a few days ago, we took two [rocket-propelled grenades] and some small arms fire. On a day-to-day basis, anything can happen."

Facing attacks outside the perimeter reminds the Soldiers not to get complacent.

"You get a sense of security every now and then and you have to remember what has happened out there," said Reyes.

"It's different when you're out there and someone is trying to mortar you than when you are on base and [a mortar lands] somewhere."

These dangers have only increased the Soldier's resolve to secure the post.

"I'm nervous, but I don't let it overwhelm me. I try to keep my mind focused on the mission at hand," said Spc. Daniel Mullins.

Soldiers in the field keep level heads due to their constant communication with their command.

"When action does occur and they do get contact, usually we're pretty calm [in the Tactical Operations Center]," said Sgt. Steve Vasquez, TOC NCOIC, Task Force 1-77 AR.

These Soldiers put their lives on the line daily to ensure the safety of those working and living inside the post.

They have developed a rapport with the local community, worked closely with the locals to not only ensure that Coalition Forces are safe, but that this country reaches its goal of freedom.

Editor's Note: Pfc. Trevino is assigned to the 28th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash. He is currently deployed to Iraq in support of the 13th Corps Support Command at LSA Anaconda.


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Close up of soldier

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On patrol