Editor's note: U.S. Army Capt. Dan Sukman is serving a one-year deployment to Iraq. For previous entries and his bio, see the Soldier's Diary archives.

1 August 2006

The first of the month always brings good news to the military. There is the obvious benefits of the first being pay day. Although there is not much to spend on here, its still a nice feeling when the first comes around. For soldiers, the first of the month also means promotions. The first of the month is when promotions take effect. That being said we had the opportunity to promote some fantastic soldiers today.

A few of the promotions today occurred in Mahamadiyah. I have a few soldiers working on the Brigade MiTT (Military Transition Team), who were promoted today. 1st Sgt. Driben and I took a convoy down to Mahamadiyah to see their promotion.

The ride down to Mahamadiyah was uneventful, and to follow up on my last column, it was a good chance to see the countryside and all the trash that litters the side of nearly every road. [Click here to read Capt. Dan's last column, entitled, "There Was Little To Destroy in Iraq When We Got Here"] The police under Saddam were an instrument of his terror, and now that the police are fighting a counterinsurgency; it does not leave much time to hand out tickets for littering.

Sgt. 1st Class Alexander Wise is a military police officer assigned to our brigade MiTT. He has spent most of his tour in Mahamadiyah working day in and day out with the Iraqi army and is one of many soldiers who can testify to the progress of the soldiers. SFC Wise has played a key part in training the Iraqis, and helping to ensure their transition and takeover of the battle space the Iraqis now own. With the hard work and dedication in some of the toughest working conditions one can imagine, few people are as deserving to join the ranks as a senior NCO [non-commissioned officer].

Our MiTT soldiers have taken the Iraqi army a long, long way over the past 10 months. In arguably the toughest part of Iraq, our soldiers in Mahamadiyah have taken what was once a broken force and turned it into an effective fighting unit. Are these Iraqi soldiers on par with the U.S. forces? Of course not. But they are taking the fight to the enemy.

When we returned from Mahamadiyah, we had another promotion ceremony for some of the soldiers on Camp Striker. One of our soldiers promoted was Sgt. Washington, who reenlisted last month, and today had pinned on him the rank of staff sergeant.

When we promote soldiers, it's a fairly simple ceremony. The soldier normally chooses who will pin the new rank on. We have them in front of a unit formation, and a couple of words are said by the soldier's chain of command. The promotion orders are read, and the new rank pinned on. Soldiers then congratulate the one being promoted.

We have had many ceremonies in Iraq but these are the ones I am most happy and proud to attend.

3 August 2006

We had some personnel from the Counterinsurgency Academy [set up by the U.S. military in Iraq to better understand, and respond to, guerilla warfare tactics] come down into our AO [area of operation] today. Essentially, they came to ask us what has been working, and what we think can be improved upon in the way we operate. I can't get into the details of the briefing, but I did want to mention the meeting as it shows how seriously soldiers take their profession.

We do our best to document all that we do. Following every operation, we talk over what went well and what can be improved upon. We do this for short missions that only take a couple of hours, and now we are documenting what we think we could have done better over the past 10 months. As our follow-on unit gets closer to arrival, its vitally important to tell them what works well for us and what we learned the hard way.

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