United Nations calls in Cavalry

Story and photos by Sgt. Michael Carden
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

BAGHDAD — United Nations officials have been tasked with facilitating the transition of responsibility from U.S. to Iraqi forces. As U.N. inspectors travel across Iraq, U.S. Army Soldiers provide personal security for them and their envoys so they can safely effect the upcoming responsible drawdown of troops and equipment.

For U.N. inspectors operating out of the International Zone in Baghdad, also known as the Green Zone, that security is provided by Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Regimental Troop Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

The cavalry Soldiers with HHT provide security and transportation for U.N. personnel as they travel to various points around the city. Once on the ground, the dismounted troops work as a personal security detachment, said Staff Sgt. William Little, a squad leader with HHT and an Ashland City, Tenn., native.

Though the inspectors have their own PSD, the Soldiers provide an outer perimeter to ensure the safety of all involved. In the event of an attack, the Soldiers’ job would be to defend against the enemy and get all personnel in their vehicles and out of the area, Little said.

Soldiers assigned to the security detail are responsible not only for the safety of the U.N. personnel in their care, but for each other. At the same time, they try to keep from disrupting civilians as much as possible.

“Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices, suicide bombers, snipers, people doing surveillance on us; everything and everybody is a potential threat, and every car is a potential VBIED,” said Staff Sgt. Charles Smith, a section sergeant with HHT and a Woodbury, Tenn., native. “You never know who has hidden agendas. You want to stay in an offensive mindset, but you still want to treat them (locals) with respect and let them know you are there to help them. It’s a fine line to walk.”

Though U.N. escort is HHT’s sole mission, changes in venue keep Soldiers from getting complacent.

“We’ve been to several different ministries,” Little said. “We’ve been to several different appellate courts, a couple of different embassies, refugee camps, a couple different U.N. warehouses.”

Soldiers from HHT also escorted U.N. officials during the ballot recount for the recent parliamentary elections, as well as providing a security detail for the special representative to the secretary general, the senior ranking U.N. official in Iraq. They also provide a quick reaction force for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The 278th ACR Soldiers work side-by-side with the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police to complete their missions. Careful coordination with Iraqi security forces keeps everyone safe as well as helps the Iraqis take charge of their own country, Smith said.

“They want to learn from us,” he said. “They want to take possession of their own country again. Money is not their sole goal. Some of them have lost loved ones, friends and family. A lot of them do this as an honor.”

Though the operational tempo remains high, morale remains strong through the unit.

“We are just as strong as we were on day one, if not stronger,” said Spc. Anthony Hargrave, a signals systems specialist with HHT and a Kingsport, Tenn., native. “We’re just going to keep on pushing on. The U.N. still has jobs it has to do and we are going to be here for them.”

 

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Staff Sgt. William Little (left), a squad leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Regimental Troop Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and an Ashland City, Tenn., native, speaks with Soldiers prior to a United Nations escort mission June 15 in Baghdad. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Carden)

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Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Regimental Troop Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) work alongside Iraqi Army and Police to provide security to United Nations officials June 15 during a U.N. inspection in Baghdad. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Carden)

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Sgt. Diana McClure, a medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Regimental Troop Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) provides security June 16 during an United Nations inspection of a refugee assistance center in Baghdad. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Carden)

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Staff Sgt. Charles Smith, a squad leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Regimental Troop Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and an Ashland City, Tenn., native, interacts with local children June 16 during an United Nations inspection of a refugee assistance center in Baghdad. (U.S. Army photos by Sgt. Michael Carden)