Lt. Col. Lance Varney, the brigade operations officer, explains the difference in daily operations on previous deployments and today, as US involvement winds down:
"In rotations before ... maybe 60 percent of your time you would be doing a lethal type of activity," says Varney, who is from San Diego. "You'd be kicking in doors, you'd be cordon-and-searching and doing whatever that it is to get at the bad guy. Then you'd be spending other parts of your time in partnership with Iraqi security forces, trying to bring them to your formations so you could do combined operations, and then you'd have another small percentage where you'd be doing civil capacity."
Now, he says, soldiers spend most of their time building civil capacity and training Iraqi security forces and less than 20 percent on security operations.
"It's an opportunity to come in and do things in a different way, to break some of the rules we have set for ourselves," says Newell, who five years ago was commanding a battalion in the center of the battle for Fallujah.
In one of the most striking differences with the past, Newell made clear to his Iraqi counterparts that outside the US bases, Iraqi security forces are responsible for keeping American soldiers safe.
"I started hearing my counterparts stand up and say publicly ... 'We are responsible for the Americans' security. They are here to train us; they are here to provide us with enablers we don't have. An attack on them is an attack on us.' "