301st Chemical Co. provides security for US officials at Baghdad University
Story and photos by Sgt. John Stimac
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
BAGHDAD — Soldiers with the 301st Chemical Company, 155th Heavy Brigade Combat Team went on a personal security detail mission Jan. 17 to Baghdad University, in Baghdad, where they provided an escort service for three U.S Department of State officials.
The team was at the university's architecture department to escort Susan Harville, Henry Bisharat and Mehmed Ali, all state department officials, to discuss the U.S. government's involvement in Baghdad's upcoming Urban Historic Preservation Conference.
Staff Sgt. Anthony W. Faul, shift leader for Raven 31 with the 299th Chemical Company, attached to the 301st Chem. Co. and a Mayesville, Ky., native, said the team usually has a show time an hour and a half before the mission to do a brief and prepare the vehicles.
In the mission brief, they discuss how to navigate through traffic and avoid possible threats on the map, Faul said.
"I tell them to be aware," said Faul. "We go over actions on contact, the rollover drills and I have the team read the rules of engagement before going out on the mission."
He said he makes sure all drivers know their routes before they go out on their mission, escorting officials generically referred to as principals.
"After we do rehearsals, we then stage, pick up the principals and head out to the venue," said Faul. "We usually don't go into the meeting, our main job is to go out with the officials and keep them safe."
Sgt. Trent A. Ogden, tactical commander with the 301st Chem. Co. and a Sardinia, Ohio, native, said he is responsible for planning the routes to get to the venue.
"I plot the route on blue force tracker, send it to the shift lead and to the limo," said Ogden. "The limo is what we call the vehicle that the principals are riding in."
Ogden said they receive missions from the Regional Security Office, then plan the mission and routes accordingly.
"We take the principals from the (International Zone) to the venue and stage the motorcade so we can leave at a moment's notice," said Ogden. "When we arrive at the venue, we send an advance party to check the meeting room out, get the principals and guide them to the meeting room, then go back outside and deal with the motorcade."
Ashur Elisha, an interpreter with the RSO, is a civilian contractor and a Surprise, Ariz., native, who has been in Iraq for seven years.
"I go out with the PSD teams and Army teams, handle all PSD movements and interpret with Iraqi and American diplomats," said Elisha.
He said they take them to ministries in Baghdad and try to help rebuild the municipalities and schools to establish a rapport with the Iraqi's.
Spc. Jonathon L. Scott, a driver with the 301st Chem. Co. and Vanceburg, Ky., native, said he has been on roughly 45 missions providing security for the state department officials.
"I like knowing that our job makes a difference," said Scott. "When we go out on venues, they are doing their job and we are a part of it."
Ogden said he was pleased with how smoothly the mission went.
"There were some vehicles that were in the way, so I had to dismount and direct traffic, but other than that, there were no problems," said Ogden.
Ogden said he enjoys his job and gets to interact with Iraqi civilians, receiving good intelligence information from them and establishing good rapport.
"A lot of units don't get to go out to the Red Zone and we get to go out quite often," said Ogden.
Faul said traffic is the biggest concern when they go out on missions to Baghdad.
"We have to make sure our gunners are vigilant of all the people and the surroundings," said Faul.
He said he has noticed a change in Iraq since the last time he was here.
"The biggest thing I have seen that is different is that the Iraqi's are trying to take more control of situations," said Faul. "To me, that is a good thing, that they are trying to take charge."
Sgt. Trent A. Ogden, a tactical commander with 301st Chemical Company and Sardinia, Ohio, native, and Ashur Elisha, an interpreter and a Surprise, Ariz., native, wait outside Baghdad University to provide security for three U.S. Department of State officials. The state department officials met with an Iraqi ministry member Jan. 17 to discuss U.S. involvement in the upcoming Baghdad Urban Historic Preservation Conference.