‘First Lightning’ Battalion Soldiers attend Iraqi-hosted partnership dinner
BAGHDAD—Col. William Richardson, left, commander of the Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team, United States Division – Center and a Lawton, Okla., native, cuts a cake with Staff Major General Hasan al-Bidani, right, chief of staff of the Baghdad Operations Center, at a partnership dinner at Forward Operating Base Prosperity, Iraq, Mar. 18, 2011. (Courtesy photo)
Story by: 1st Lt. Donald Gillilan
BAGHDAD—Soldiers with Battery A, 1st "First Lightning" Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division – Center were among those who attended a dinner featuring traditional Iraqi cuisine like lamb, kabobs, and carp, hosted by their counterparts in Baghdad's International Zone Mar. 18.
Each month, the Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team hosts a dinner at Forward Operating Base Prosperity, Iraq, to celebrate the birthdays of American service members assigned to the team. Gradually, it has evolved into a partnered event with the Iraqi Security Forces whom they advise—Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen, coming together to break bread with their Iraqi partners.
For the month of March, however, the routine was changed. The Iraqi service members assigned to the BOC insisted on hosting the dinner.
"I'm excited to be a part of this moment, and I am glad that I was able to bring a few Soldiers with me for this experience," said Staff Sgt. Scott Parham, a section chief with 1st Platoon, Battery A, 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt. and a Louisville, Ky., native. "I wasn't sure what to expect, but we had good weather, good food and great company."
The Iraqis wanted their American partners to dine with them in their dining facility, located on the grounds outside of the palace.
"It's a rare treat to get the opportunity to dine in the BOC dining facility," said Lt. Col. Nathan Crum, chief of operations with the BOCAT and a Millersville, Md., native. "The Iraqis see [the BOC dining facility] as their own private area where they socialize with their peers, so to be invited there is fortuitous."
As the BOC is responsible for the security of the entire Baghdad Province, the most heavily-populated province in the country, being able to take a pause in the action to enjoy food and company is a welcome respite from the constant bustle, said Col. William Richardson, commander of the BOCAT and a Lawton, Okla., native.
"The dinner was great, and I appreciate all the participants, especially the folks that help make it a success," Richardson said. "It was a great time, where we were able to see and engage our counterparts outside of the office, and see some of them smile."
A favorite American dish, enjoyed universally by the Iraqis at the BOC, is Buffalo wings, which are served during almost every partnership dinner. During this dinner, however, the Iraqis Security Forces wanted to treat their guests to a little Iraqi hospitality. On the menu were many authentic Iraqi favorites.
"The food was great," said Pfc. Tyler Bohl, a member of Battery A, 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt. and a Flint, Mich., native. "At first I was asking a lot of questions, but they kept putting items on my plate and telling me to try it."
The particular guests of honor at the dinner were Air Force personnel who the Iraqis wished to farewell and thank for their assistance during the past six months.
"It really felt special that our Iraqi counterparts took the time to honor us in this manner," said Air Force Master Sgt. Edgardo Alicea, with the 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron assigned to the BOCAT and a New York City native. "I have been deployed many times before, and this was just something I never expected."