Face of Defense: Soldier Sees Progress in Iraq

CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE WARRIOR, Iraq — Since the onset of Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom in 2003, thou­sands of sol­diers have wit­nessed progress through­out their deploy­ments to Iraq.

For Army Sgt. Kevin Chap­man, a squad leader with the 1st Infantry Division’s Com­pa­ny D, 2nd Bat­tal­ion, 12th Cav­al­ry Reg­i­ment, 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, being a part of the tran­si­tion from Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom to Oper­a­tion New Dawn has shaped his career as a sol­dier.

Chap­man said he always want­ed to serve in the armed forces, and enlist­ed in the Army in 2005.

“I joined the Army to try to make a dif­fer­ence for my coun­try,” the Cony­ers, Ga., native said. “I knew it was some­thing I could make a career out of and do for the rest of my life.”

From 2005 to 2007, Chap­man said, he was as a gun­ner for the mor­tar pla­toon with the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Bat­tal­ion, 36th Infantry Reg­i­ment, from Fried­berg, Ger­many. He lat­er was tasked as the radio and tele­phone oper­a­tor in the fire direc­tion cen­ter.

After the deploy­ment, Chap­man was reas­signed to Fort Hood, Texas, where he cur­rent­ly serves.

After deploy­ing twice dur­ing the mid­dle and lat­ter parts of Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom, Chap­man said, his cur­rent Iraq tour in sup­port of Oper­a­tion New Dawn is dif­fer­ent because of U.S. forces’ cur­rent role to advise Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces.

“Dur­ing my first deploy­ment we did pres­ence patrols and ter­rain denial,” said Chap­man. “We would go out to show we were there, and we were a force. We were more aggres­sive dur­ing [my first tour], and we didn’t work direct­ly with the [Iraqi forces].”

Chap­man said he saw the tran­si­tion in oper­a­tions begin dur­ing his sec­ond deploy­ment in 2008.

“In 2008 and 2009, I wit­nessed tran­si­tion,” he said. “After the agree­ments between the U.S. and Iraq, we had to have an [Iraqi] coun­ter­part with us, and we worked close­ly with them, train­ing them on how to shoot mor­tars.

“Instead of being the dom­i­nant force and telling them what to do and how to do it,” he added, “we asked for sug­ges­tions and their opin­ions on the train­ing we gave.”

U.S. and Iraqi forces coop­er­at­ed and com­bined strengths to devel­op train­ing and mis­sion sched­ules, while Iraqis took the lead, Chap­man said.

Army Spc. John Charles, one of Chapman’s squad mem­bers, said pri­or expe­ri­ences def­i­nite­ly influ­ence Chapman’s abil­i­ty to be a great leader.

“He gets a lot of respon­si­bil­i­ty dumped on him, more than any­body else, and he han­dles it with a sense of humor and a pride about him that I’ve not seen from anoth­er sol­dier,” said Charles, a Hous­ton native.

Chap­man con­sis­tent­ly per­forms above his cur­rent rank, Charles added.

Now, with the mis­sion of an advise and assist task force, Chap­man said it is impor­tant for U.S. forces to teach the Iraqi forces to main­tain an active pres­ence in their coun­try.

“We want them to take the reins, step in and con­tin­ue tak­ing over every­thing we do,” Chap­man said. “It’s impor­tant for us to teach and show them, and hope­ful­ly when we leave, they will be bet­ter able to uti­lize the train­ing we’ve giv­en them, and it will con­tin­ue mak­ing them bet­ter.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)