Fort Carson soldiers increasingly on the sidelines in Iraq

October 29, 2009

As the U.S. presence shrinks in Iraq, tales of the war are absent from nightly newscasts and slipping from front pages around the country.

Fort Carson’s Col. Butch Kievenaar thinks that’s the way it should be.

“That means we’re achieving the mission,” said Kievenaar, who came home in August after a year in Iraq leading the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

Kievenaar spent time in Iraq when it was front-page news every day — as a roiling insurgency destroyed progress and killed civilians and soldiers at an alarming rate.

He leaves a country that, while not without ongoing struggle — including a major insurgent bombing in Baghdad Sunday that left 155 dead — has achieved a degree of security and autonomy, that was only theory a few years ago.

And Americans are now mostly on the sidelines as Iraqi units work to secure the country.

The one thing he does want people to remember is the work his soldiers did to make this relative placidity in Iraq possible.

“Things like today are important for the community to understand the work these soldiers did,” he said after addressing a roomful of business leaders to outline the brigade’s accomplishments.

Those soldiers, he said, proved flexible over a nomadic year at war and proved their ability to prepare Iraqi troops for success.

The brigade went to Iraq in August 2008 and took over a wide swath of southern Iraq while also sending 900 soldiers to patrol Mosul and later Kirkuk.

The brigade’s 3,800 soldiers changed jobs as the country changed, starting with patrols and anti-insurgency operations before moving to a training role while providing humanitarian and rebuilding aid.

In the city of Basra alone, the unit committed more than $160 million to rebuilding, Kievenaar said.

All the efforts came together last spring, when the brigade’s soldiers oversaw provincial elections. Americans were in the back seat as Iraqis provided security.

“It was the quietest day I have ever experienced,” Kievenaar said.

He gives full credit to his soldiers and their Iraqi partners.

“It takes leaders who think,” he said.

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