HADITHA, Iraq -- Marines operating in the Haditha-triad region recently bid farewell to Azerbaijani soldiers who have spent the past six months providing internal security for hundreds of Marines headquartered at the city’s large dam.
A change of command ceremony here July 13, 2006, marked the end of a six-month tour of duty in Iraq for one group of the soldiers and the beginning for another.
Azerbaijan is a former Soviet Union state located in southwestern Asia bordering the Caspian Sea between Iran and Russia and is slightly smaller than Maine.
The dam is occupied by the Hawaii-based 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, who have spent the past four months combating insurgents and training Iraqi soldiers and police.
The soldiers support the Marines by providing perimeter security around the dam, escorting Iraqi workers and protecting the battalion’s command and control center.
By performing these duties, they free up a whole “company’s worth” of Marines, who in turn can support operations against anti-Iraqi forces throughout the region, said 1st Lt. Sam Monte, the 29-year-old executive officer of the battalion’s Headquarters and Service Company.
“Each soldier volunteered to come to Iraq and they are very eager to work with the Marines,” said Azerbaijan Army Capt. Javid Abbasov, the executive officer assigned to 1st Company, Guard Force Brigade. “They are glad to be able to represent their country and will do the mission to the best of their ability.”
All young males in Azerbaijan are obligated to serve in the armed forces for a year and a half. However, if the soldiers volunteer to serve in a combat zone, they are only required to serve one year.
The soldiers have had a presence in the Haditha Dam and supported Coalition Forces for more than three years, said Monte, a native of Portland, Ore.
“The soldiers have been very professional at all times,” said Monte. “Even though there was a language barrier many of the Marines made friends with them and they both learned phrases in each others’ languages.”
The soldiers occupy separate sections of the dam’s living space, but dine with the Marines everyday and often watch movies together after evening meals.
With less than a week at their new posts at the dam, the new batch of soldiers are learning their jobs and routines in the dam quickly and thoroughly, said Monte.
Abbasov, who has previously served in Iraq, said serving with Coalition Forces is a bit of an honor for Azerbaijan’s soldiers – the soldiers are hand selected by their commanders, and only top-notch soldiers make the cut.
“It is a great experience for me and the other soldiers to contribute in the Global War on Terrorism and our government supports our mission here as well,” said Abbasov. “I am personally thankful to be here and help Iraq rebuild their country and I know all my soldiers feel that way as well.”
Third battalion, also known as “America’s Battalion,” arrived in March and is scheduled to depart Iraq this fall. They will be replaced by another Hawaii-based unit U.S. military unit.
Contact Sgt. Seigle at: email@example.com