Story and photos by Ed Kane
A massive hotdog roast was the final stage of the historic return to Joint Base Lewis-McChord of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker) from combat operations in Iraq, led by the brigade commander, Col. John G. Norris.
The brigade’s mission in Iraq was to ensure the capacity of Iraq to provide sufficient security to enable the country’s transition to democracy, economic development and enduring stability. The Brigade served as the last combat unit in Iraq, turning over the responsibility for security in Baghdad to the Iraqi Army and police on August 7th, and then with their mission completed, tactically road-marched out of Iraq and into Kuwait.
Equally significant, the last check point in the road march out was labeled on a road sign, “Phase Line Lakewood,” symbolizing the successful return home of the 4,600 soldiers of the Raider Brigade. Colonel Norris desired to end operations in Iraq with a celebration following their uncasing ceremony – which signals the official return of the Brigade – that properly recognized the tremendous success of Raider soldiers in this historic mission. He named this the Raider Rendezvous.
The newly formed Lakewood Sub-chapter of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), in partnership with the Morale, Welfare and Recreation division of Joint Base Lewis McChord agreed to take this on. The Lakewood AUSA rallied wide-spread community support in terms of donations of cash, services and merchandise. The MWR office organized and then executed the event. It truly was a grand occasion, serving 5,000 soldiers and their families… perhaps the Mother of all Barbeques.
4th SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division Fact’s
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On March 1, 2009, Col. John Norris, the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division commander announces that the brigade will be accelerated by nine months and sent to Iraq. After a month-long rotation to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. in July, the brigade cased its colors on Aug. 24 and prepared to deploy. Arriving in west Baghdad with an official boots on the ground date of Sept. 15, the 4,400 Soldiers of the brigade set to work immediately, partnering with the 6th and 9th Iraqi Army Divisions, 2nd Battalion, 6th Federal Police Division and with local Iraqi Police and Sons of Iraq.
The brigade’s operational environment, which centered in and around the Abu Ghraib Qada and ranged north to Taji and Tarmiyah, contained more than 2.5 million citizens, 23 foreign embassies and 18 important Government of Iraq buildings including the Iraqi Parliament. In preparation for the March 7 Iraqi National Elections, the brigade established numerous training exercises and programs aimed at bolstering the Iraqi Security Forces’ capabilities including:
- Basic to advanced rifle marksmanship training
- Traffic control point procedures
- Equipment maintenance classes
- Sensitive site exploitation training
- An Exploitation Task Force which produced the first warrant issued solely on DNA evidence
- Routine and highly sought-after use of explosive detection dogs in a culture that greatly dislikes dogs
Partnering with two embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams, USAID and the Army Corps of Engineers, the brigade completed 83 civil capacity projects, including medical clinics, schools, water filtration systems, electrical projects, agribusiness and local business grants totaling $14.5 million.
As part of the Responsible Drawdown of Forces, Soldiers in the brigade fixed, cleaned and turned in two brigade’s worth of equipment for redistribution to other units in Iraq, Afghanistan and the U.S. To provide additional combat flexibility for as long as possible up until the President’s Aug. 31 deadline, 2,000 Soldiers from 4th Brigade conducted a tactical road march (TRM), dubbed “The Last Patrol” from Victory Base Complex and Camp Taji to Kuwait in mid-August.
- Total distance from Baghdad to Kuwait: 360 miles
- Number of vehicles: 360, including 320 Strikers
- Average daytime temperature: 120 degrees
- Total hours of travel: 17 spread over two days
- Number of enemy contacts: 0
- Total fuel consumed: 22,500 gallons
- Only two major vehicle breakdowns
- No Soldiers killed in action OIF 09-10
- 36 Soldiers wounded OIF 09-10; 3 seriously wounded
- Total brigade OIF losses: 37 KIA OIF 07-09