Editor's note: Tje following is the second installment in a series profiling the men and women of the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division now deployed to Iraq.
Maj. Roger Keen has been deployed to Iraq three times since the war began in 2003, and each time the Army officer has witnessed a different stage of history and corresponding missions. Keen is with Higher Headquarters Company, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. He is stationed at FOB Falcon near Baghdad.
He participated in the invasion of Baghdad during his first deployment, saw evidence of violence before the surge of U.S. armed forces in Iraq during his second tour, and on his third tour he sees Iraqis ready to stand on their own.
"I was with the 3rd Infantry Division in 2003 when we entered Baghdad. I was here again in March 2007 to June 2008," Keen said. "This is my third deployment. I left home (Fort Stewart) Nov. 30, 2009. Each time has been a different experience and it’s been great to see the amount of progress Iraq has made over the last seven years."
Keen is the principal staff officer for coordinating logistics, including supply, maintenance, transportation and field services, across the 1st Brigade, according to 3rd ID media coordinator Tom Conning.
Keen said his professional challenges this deployment are "replacing four brigades in Baghdad and closing bases as we draw down our deployment numbers."
"This is logistically challenging, especially in terms of transportation and property accountability," Keen added.
He was a company commander in 2003 for the initial invasion into Baghdad and said Americans were greeted as heroes in the beginning.
"The Iraqi people were real excited when we got here," Keen said. "People were cheering and waving to us. Mostly we (his company) stayed at Baghdad International — we didn’t get out much from that area."
The major said progress has been made over the years, both with aiding the Iraqis on the road to independence and improving safety and security for American soldiers.
"In 2003, soldiers were going around in humvees with no doors and no body armor. Now we have a lot of protection with our vehicles and equipment. The Army has changed."
"Today the Iraqis have the lead on everything," Keen said. "The attacks are way, way down."
He credits the reduction in violence to the surge that began in early 2007. Keen said there was more combat going on three years ago, and therefore more soldiers were killed or wounded than at present.
"We were taking a significant amount of casualties," he said. "I’d say 20-30 a month."
Keen said insurgent attacks on American troops were on the decline by December 2007.
"Attacks were down. Casualties and injuries were down," he said. "It was the turning point. It was great to be a part of that."
Keen’s second deployment was his longest — 15 months. He served under former 3rd ID Commander Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch from March 2007 to June 2008.
He expects to return home from this deployment at the end of this year.
"The Army has been good to me," Keen said. "I enlisted in 1989 at the age of 17."
He later attended the University of Tampa and received a bachelor’s in criminology. He earned a master’s degree in science and security management from Bellevue University in Nebraska.
The Army has given him the opportunity to travel and earn a decent living to support his family, he said.
"We have a great team here," the major said. "They keep me going every day."
Keen, 38, has been married to Young-a Keen for 14 years. The Richmond Hill couple has two children, Matthew, 11, and Erin, 6.
When he’s not on duty, Keen likes to read and, "does a lot of Skype with family and friends."
He also runs for exercise after putting in 15-18-hour workdays while deployed.
"At home I like to fish," Keen said. A native of Cherry Hill, N.J., the Fort Stewart soldier said he feels at peace "among the Georgia pines."