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NEWS | Feb. 2, 2010

Colorado Guardsmen protect the force in Iraq

By Spc. Anita VanderMolen Oregon National Guard

VICTORY BASE COMPLEX, Baghdad, - The force protection Soldiers of the Colorado National Guard's 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team have a mission that is misunderstood.

Many people think of it as being dressed in "battle rattle" and providing security at a tower. Actually, force protection is also what happens behind the scenes.

"In the most general term, force protection is construction," said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Safley, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the 41st force protection team. "We upgrade, repair and maintain the entry control points and towers."

Taking care of the ECPs and towers began shortly after the battalion arrived in Iraq in July 2009.

"My sole focus, along with the commanders, was with the ECPs," said Lt. Col. William Prendergast, commander of the 1/82 CAV. "In an infantryman's terms 'improving the foxhole' -meaning the way we did business, how the ECPs looked, and how it operated."

The improvement came in different areas—setting standards, putting up more jersey barriers, and altering traffic patterns and the flow of individuals and vehicles onto VBC.

One force protection project was to set blast barriers weighing between 8-16,000 pounds each around an ECP on Jan. 9.

"We are adding T-walls so there will be no more driving through, only foot traffic," Safley said.

The project also includes adding support and protection to an observation post with Hesco barriers and sand bags. Hesco barriers were also added to the perimeter wall.

Other duties of force protection include stringing concertina wire and cables along the tops of the barriers, maintaining the light towers on the gun lines of the convoy security companies and on the towers. They also make repairs to areas around the perimeter where it may be compromised.

"Doing those things may deter someone, who wants to do harm to VBC, from going out and actually doing it," Prendergast said, "because they say 'That's a hard target.'"