Combined Patrols Helping Iraqis Assume Baghdad Security
June 4, 2008
FOB FALCON, Iraq (Army News Service, June 4, 2008) - U.S. Soldiers took to the shadows Sunday to provide security overwatch for Iraqi volunteers manning a hasty checkpoint in Baghdad's Bayaa community.
Meanwhile, National Policemen from the 2nd NP Division patrolled the darkened streets renowned for improvised-explosive devices and violent attacks against Iraqi Security and Coalition Forces.
The Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry, 4th Infantry Division recently began missions such as this one to assist Iraqi Security Forces and provide security and stability to the Bayaa, Aamel and Jihad communities in West Rashid, an area of southern Baghdad, said 1st Lt. Jeffrey Oben, a platoon leader assigned to Co. A, 1-22nd Infantry.
"The ISF are the mission," said Oben, an infantry officer from Flushing, Mich. "Improving the Iraqi security and allowing the Iraqis to take ownership of their own destiny and their own security really is our mission in Iraq."
The Soldiers conduct combined patrols with the 2nd Bn., 5th Bde., 2nd NP Div. every day and continue to assist the National Police Forces as they take the lead in ongoing security efforts in Rashid, he said.
"Capable, well-led, organized, ambitious, and well-disciplined," were just a few of the words Oben used to describe the National Police of the 2nd Bn., 5th Bde.
The ISF is not quite ready to assume control of its area, but it is well on its way to taking over, said Oben, who went on to explain that the 2nd Bn., 5th Bde., is "more than capable, and the way ahead is the NPs operating independently without any Coalition presence."
The National Police operate checkpoints, conduct security patrols and clearing operations, while talking with local Iraqis in the Aamel and Bayaa communities, looking for weapons and checking identification cards, said NP Sgt. Areef Nawr, 2nd Bn., 5th Bde.
Nawr said he wants security, peace and something better than what he has seen in his country during the past three years of his service as an NP, and he will continue to work until the ISF gains the trust and understanding of the Iraqi people.
"This is my country," explained Nawr, as to why he serves in the ISF.
Staff Sgt. Robert Brown, an M2 Bradley section leader, from Lowell, Mass., said he believes the National Police are almost to the point of taking over from U.S. forces.
"I would like to see the (militants) reduced to a level where they cannot operate, which I believe we are starting to do," said Brown, an infantrymen on his third deployment with Co. A, 1st Bn., 22nd Inf. Regt., in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"With that, I believe the NPs are a big help," Brown explained. "They know who a lot of the special groups criminals are, where they operate, where they hide out. It makes the NPs a good asset to have out there because they detain guys we would not expect to be doing bad things."
Brown also said that the improving security situation in southern Baghdad is due to the Concerned Local Citizens program, the U.S.-backed Sons of Iraq (Abna al-Iraq), who are working to reintegrate the Sunnis back into the Aamel and Bayaa communities.
"The SOI will help move the Sunni families back into their homes and hopefully limit the sectarian violence, where (the communities) can be Shia and Sunni again," Brown said.
The Soldiers of the 1st "Raider" BCT, working with the local ISF, are going to see the area become more stable with the continued support of the Iraqi community, said Staff Sgt. Harold Rodriguez, an infantry squad leader, also from Lowell, Mass., and assigned to Co. A, 1st Bn., 22nd Inf. Regt.
"When we first got here, we couldn't see the SOI, but now they are building up their checkpoints and working alongside the Iraqi Police and National Police," he explained.
The "buzz" on the streets is that the militant group members are quitting, said Rodriguez.
"We have been finding a lot of their caches and arresting a lot of people," he explained. "The (special groups) leadership is telling the militia to attack, and they are not doing it. They are coming to us for reconciliation."
In recent months, the Iraqi Security Volunteers, or Sons of Iraq, in the Bayaa and Aamel communities increased to almost 2,000 volunteers - nearly double the numbers from seven months ago, said Spc. Marc Miller, an infantryman, assigned to Company B, 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, currently attached to Co. A, 1st Bn., 22nd Inf. Regt.
"They have been really great as far as giving us tips and helping us out," said Miller, who hails from Zanesville, Ohio. "We haven't really seen many improvised-explosive devices or explosively formed projectiles emplaced, and I think a lot of the credit goes to these guys because they help us out and give us tips; and a lot of times, the tips are even before the IEDs or EFPs get placed."
Security in the area has improved greatly since the "Regulars" Battalion arrived, said Miller, who has seen several special groups criminals and significant weapons caches taken off the streets in recent weeks.
"I credit it to ... the non-stop patrolling," Miller said.
A Company "Gators" maintain a presence in the Aamel and Bayaa communities 24 hours per day, Miller said.
"We constantly have someone out in sector ... for every platoon that is out in sector, as soon as they come back, we have another platoon that is ready to go," he said.
Working with the ISF increases the unit's ability to action on tips from concerned citizens and doubles the security forces operating in Baghdad, added Miller, who used a recent operation that resulted in the capture of more than 40 "bad guys" in one day as an example of recent successes.
"The Soldiers are on top of it," said Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Guden, who hails from Medford, Wis., and is the senior enlisted leader for the "Regulars" Bn. "They are doing an outstanding job of coaching, mentoring and teaching the ISF while working for the safety and security of the Rashid district, which contributes to the overall stability of Baghdad."
(Staff Sgt. Brent Williams serves with the 1st BCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div., Muti-National Division-Baghdad)