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"On 23 October, we seized it with a two-company assault from the Golden Dragons, and since then it’s been known as Patrol Base Dragon."
October 23, 2006 - before "the surge" began. That's from the post-deployment "wrap up" by Colonel Mike Kershaw, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division ("Commando"). Its become all too common these days to approach declaring everything before the surge as "failed" in Iraq - in spite of the fact that all of the tactics used during the surge were tried and proven in the years prior, in Tal Afar and Qaim and Ramadi and other locations throughout the country, and nowhere had American troops surrendered the battle.
"We initially looked at this is a classic counterinsurgency, and we moved in and secured the people. We had several examples we were able to follow and studied the counterinsurgency doctrine that our Army has been pushing to the forefront and were able to apply that immediately upon getting here." Colonel Kershaw wrote, and added praise to the previous unit in the AO: "our predecessors from the Strike Brigade of the 101st literally had their way into the heartland of this al Qaeda sanctuary. Their hard fight really put us in a good position to launch our counterinsurgency operations, which commenced 20 September 2006, as we assumed this area of operations from our Strike brethren."
In December, 2005, Robert Stokely wrote me an email that began with this:
Came across your blog this morning, and thought I'd share my thoughts as the dad of an American Soldier killed in action four months ago. My son was standing cover flank for two buddies checking out a suspicous location in the roadway while on patrol at 2:20 A.M. 16 Aug when an IED exploded. He was the only one killed. Two soldiers suffered serious injuries and are now home on permanent medical leave, but both will live normal lives after they finish med rehab and surgery.We miss him so much. Robert wrote. "We hurt inside. But we burst with pride in our son and brother. His memory will not fade nor will our love for him."
Mike didn't die for a "just cause", he died JUST BECAUSE - just because he loved his country enough to want to serve it since the time he was in middle school; just because he loved his family enough to want to protect them; just because he loved his friends enough that he would rather fight a war "there" than here; just because he believed in our order of government whereby the civilian government rules and the military obeys, and when the President, with lawful authority, calls upon soldiers to go and fight, he believed it was not only his duty, but his honor to go; just because he wouldn't let his fellow soldiers - his guys - go it alone; and just because he wanted to do for others - the Iraqi people - what he would do for his own country....and he signed that email
Robert Stokely, Lucky and Proud to be the Dad of- The very area that would later pass to the control of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain.
SGT Michael "Mike" James Stokely, KIA Operation Iraqi Freedom 16 Aug 05
2nd Platoon, E Troop 108th CAV 48h Brigaded GA NATL GUARD
15 miles south of Baghdad near Yusufiyah / IED
And they had not forgotten.
In July, 2007, I was able to send Robert Stokely this email from Baghdad:
One of my guys was on a trip down south and this was likely taken at one of the fiyahs - they were waypoints on his trip.Robert knew the circumstances of why each name was on that memorial:
Both Mahmudiyah and Yusifiyah are now receiving a lot of attention. When you hear of the battle for the Baghdad belts, they are two of the key points. The 3ID has the lead in that part of Iraq - though now in Iraq the Division is referred to as Multi-National Division Central (MND-C) and is basically comprised of most of the surge Brigades announced last Winter.
The last of us got here in late May, the battle wasn't truly joined until mid June, and though I doubt you are hearing much of it we are taking it to the enemy hot and heavy in this AO - so Georgia's own are here carrying on.
Hollar and Draughn killed Sept 1, 05 by IED while on patrol near their FOB at Mahmuhdiyah, while Mike was killed 16 Aug 05 8 miles west near his FOB at Yuufiyah - they were CAV Scouts with E Troop 108 CAV; Saylor, Strickland and Dingler died 15 Aug 05 due to combat related vehicle roll-over into a canal near Mahmuhdiyah and were CAV Scouts with the 108th Armor. Mike's unit had been detached to and assigned to work with the Armor unit.Robert had a plan though. He wanted to collect school supplies to send to the children of Yusifiyah - the location where his son had died. I told him I'd see what I could do to help make that happen, and although 2/10 was (as implied above) then otherwise engaged that perhaps the time for such an effort might come soon.
[July] Fourth was a good day, although bittersweet. While some blame in bitterness, our family has chosen to remember with honor, and pride, the life we shared, and that was given so willingly for this country.
"Otherwise engaged" - as also described in this news story from November, 2008:
Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins of Bozeman was killed in Iraq in June 2007 when he tackled a suicide bomber and saved the lives of three other soldiers.The Commando Brigade lost 54 soldiers killed and over 270 wounded in action in Iraq.
The Army posthumously honored the 10th Mountain Division soldier Friday with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest medal for heroism, outranked only by the Medal of Honor.
Atkins’ unit was patrolling on June 1, 2007 in Abu Sarnak while helping search for two other 10th Mountain Division soldiers — Sgt. Alex Jimenez and Pvt. Byron Fouty — who were captured in an attack south of Baghdad in May 2007. The bodies of Fouty and Jimenez were not found until this past July.
The unit encountered a group of suspected insurgents and were searching them when one resisted and began fighting hand-to-hand with Atkins, said Col. David Miller, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
During the fight, Atkins realized the man was trying to trigger a suicide vest he was wearing under his clothing, Miller said.
Atkins tackled his attacker and pinned him to the ground, shielding three of his soldiers from the blast as the insurgent set off the bomb.
“Besides the Medal of Honor, there is no higher award that can be given to a service member so it speaks volumes of what Sgt. Atkins did. I can think of nothing more selfless than giving your life to protect the lives of your fellow soldiers,” Miller said.
Atkins was serving his second tour in Iraq when he was killed. He was part of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. After attending the University of Montana, he re-enlisted in the Army and was sent to Iraq in the summer of 2006.
Now we’ve begun to see what’s been called the Anbar awakening in other parts of Iraq spread to our AO. That happened about four or five months ago. My reconnaissance squadron, the 189 Cavalry, began working with some local leaders that were becoming disenchanted with the way that al Qaeda was terrorizing the local area. And what was first a marriage of convenience for the local insurgents and al Qaeda, from really a nationalistic resistance, really became splintered.And,
We were able to capitalize on this, and as al Qaeda overstayed their welcome by forcing, you know, extremist kind of Taliban types of heavy-handed approaches to the insurgency and take liberties like, you know, marriages of convenience with the local females, restricting smoking to the local villagers and just these type of coercive acts, forcing them to emplace IEDs — it really eroded the support that al Qaeda may have had for the local insurgents.
And the results from an attack standpoint have been amazing. Since we’ve been working with these concerned citizens, they’ve turned in or given us some information which has led to the apprehension of over 85 terrorists, three of whom we have been tracking since our arrival in country. One was wanted for leading the attack against our predecessors’ unit, killing and capturing two of our fellow soldiers. And literally we have been searching for this guy since our arrival in country, and they turned him over within three weeks of us beginning these operations.
We’ve also had great success as tribal leaders have come to us and worked with this program, and the security situation has changed really for the better. We’re now able to work on projects in the local areas. It helps stimulate the economy on a limited basis, as more people turn their backs on al Qaeda and move to take care of their own people.
With these concerned citizens establishing their own local checkpoints in their own local areas, the roads are now secure. Workers, government of Iraq programs can now move into areas that were previously denied to them by the insurgency.
We’ve had a huge decline in the number of IEDs and attacks against, you know, our forces. You know, the two-week increments, by which we track attacks, where we used to have indirect fire, it was really daily around here. Now, we only get two, at most five, attacks over a two-week period, and our casualties are significantly down. The numbers of IEDs turned in and caches has increased substantially, and we’re able to transit roads that we couldn’t six months ago.
One of the legacies I think we’ll also leave behind here is our shared partnership with the 4th Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Army. It’s a very capable brigade. It’s very well-led. They’ve conducted almost 138 air assaults, 53 brigade-level operations, 69 battalion-level operations. And in fact, we really conduct almost no operations where we do not have Iraqi forces either embedded with us or where they are in the lead.By the fall of 2007, 2/10 had completed their tour of duty in Iraq, their replacements from the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne were inbound.
"What we’re trying to do is bring a sustainable lasting peace to this area and to date the results have been very favorable, although, really, they’re still tenuous," Colonel Kershaw wrote. "You can rest assured that although we’ve had some heavy sacrifice, that our contributions have been significant and that we’re going to leave south Baghdad better than we found it."
More to follow...
Thank you or the recap and of course, for again including and remembering my boy, Mike. He is remembered by us most of all at this special time of the year. We are still in th fight and we will not abandon his "guys" - his fellow soldiers, especially now that they prepare to deploy in May 09 to Afghanistan.
DUTY HONOR COUNTRY
proud dad SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah Iraq
E 108 CAV 48th BCT GAARNG