BAGHDAD (Army News Service, Jan. 19, 2007) - The green glow of Soldiers' night-vision goggles dot the otherwise pitch-black night while bolt cutters provide entry to the early morning objective - a mosque. With the lock cut, the Soldiers provide area security so Iraqi national police and Iraqi Army soldiers can assume control of the operation.
The Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, began their day Jan. 16 securing the outside of a mosque in the Hardar neighborhood of Al-Doura, Baghdad, while NPs and IAs searched the inside.
General Order Number One prohibits U.S. forces from entering mosques because they are religious sanctuaries for Iraqis, said Sgt 1st Class William Gustwiller, platoon leader for Company A's 2nd Bn.
Consequently, Soldiers rely on their Iraqi counterparts to ensure mosques do not become weapons storage spaces or safe havens for insurgents, said Gustwiller.
"They know that we can't go in there, so it's a good place (for them) to hide stuff," said Staff Sgt. Nick Crosby, a Company A squad leader.
Since the mission of searching a mosque is always joint in nature, Soldiers and Iraqi security forces coordinate and share information to ensure the operation succeeds, Gustwiller said.
Working together, the Soldiers and Iraqi forces located multiple AK-47s, some ammunition and body armor. The weapons and ammunition were authorized for protection, but the body armor was prohibited and therefore confiscated by the Iraqi forces, Gustwiller said.
"The personnel who are taking care of the mosque are not a special protection force. They're caretakers. That's it," Gustwiller said. "So they're not allowed to have body armor."