By Spc. Jason Dangel, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE PROSPERITY, Iraq, Oct. 16, 2006 – In the early morning hours, a soldier awakens as a stern voice blaring over his internal communications radio instructs the leader to rally his men and be ready to move into southern Baghdad in less than 30 minutes.
Fifteen minutes later, 14 combat-ready soldiers line up their armored vehicles with their weapons ready and mounted atop their steel turrets. The soldiers stand ready to greet the brigade commander before leaving the safe haven of a small forward operating base on the edge of the International Zone.
This is the life of the soldiers who make up the command Personal Security Detachment teams of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, in Baghdad.
The two 14-man teams provide safe and timely transportation for the brigade command team: Col. Michael Beech and Command Sgt. Maj. John Moody. The task requires a state of readiness 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“I couldn’t do what I do without them,” said Moody, who has more than 27 years of service. “They do a good job and take their job seriously. They take personal responsibility for taking me where we need to be, and when I get out of the vehicle, they are like those guys who take care of the president – Secret Service.”
There isn’t a day when the two teams made up of infantrymen, cavalry scouts, tankers and military police don’t see the highways of the bustling Iraqi city, either out on patrol with units from the 4th Brigade Combat Team or taking the command group to meetings and ceremonies throughout central and southern Baghdad.
About four months before deploying in December 2005, the soldiers who make up the current command PSD teams were selected for the security job they would be tasked to complete, said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cardona, the PSD’s noncommissioned officer in charge.
Most of the soldiers, he added, were young and inexperienced when they showed up for their first day of duty. Unsure of how well the assortment of young soldiers would work together, Cardona said, he sent both teams through two weeks of initial training.
“From the day the PSD was created, it was kind of thrown together,” said Cardona, a 15-year Army veteran from Alice, Texas. “All the soldiers came from different units and backgrounds, so the training gave me early assessments on what they needed to improve on as a cohesive security unit.”
The majority of the standardized training included a two-week course that encompassed convoy escort procedures, protection tactics for principal dignitaries, and security procedures when moving the command staff through a combat zone, Cardona said.
After the training, Cardona identified two team leaders for the two PSD teams: Staff Sgt. Bradley Hoy, an infantryman from Llano, Texas, and Sgt. Jeffrey Rogers, a military policeman from Buffalo, N.Y.
Both veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Hoy and Rogers took comfortably to the leadership positions they were asked to fill and worked hard to ensure their soldiers were trained and ready for their mission in the Iraqi capital, explained Cardona.
“They both stepped up into an unfamiliar position and have done a great job leading their soldiers,” Cardona said.
After four months of training that included a three-week mission rehearsal exercise at Fort Hood, Texas, the two teams deployed with the rest of the brigade to Camp Buerhing, Kuwait, in late November 2005. To date, the teams have completed more than 550 successful missions.
Down time is hard to come by for the PSD soldiers, who are constantly working to improve and upgrade the vehicles that carry the 4th BCT’s command personnel. Aside from the constant string of daily missions tasked to the two autonomous teams, the soldiers can be found in the motor pool working on their Humvees when they’re not traveling through the streets of Baghdad.
” There is definitely a lot of time spent in the motor pool,” said Spc. Alex Faiivae, a native of Woodridge, Va., who serves as a gunner for the commander’s team. “We have installed just about everything in terms of armor upgrades that is available. We have to have the highest amount of protection, because we carry around the colonel and sergeant major – and they have to be safe.”
Most of the soldiers are in the motor pool so often they even have their own coveralls, Faiivae said.
Though the PSD soldiers have such a busy schedule that sleep sometimes is a low priority, that doesn’t discourage the personal security troopers. Morale always remains high among the teams’ soldiers, said Sgt. Gregory Thomson, a team leader on Moody’s PSD.
“The way our young soldiers have grown into what they are today is amazing,” said Thomson, a native of Oglesby, Ill. “When they are asked to do something, they get it done, and they are always focused on their mission. They have all grown into some great soldiers.”
(Army Spc. Jason Dangel is assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team public affairs, 4th Infantry Division.)