By Sgt. Mike PryorFebruary 9, 2007
BAGHDAD (Army News Service, Feb. 9, 2007) - The 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team established a combat outpost in the heart of Baghdad this week in an effort to reduce sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital and assist the Iraqi security forces to take control of the city.
Paratroopers from the 2nd BCT's 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, will be living, working and conducting operations out of the newly-established Combat Outpost Callahan, located in Baghdad's Adhamiyah district.
"Living in this neighborhood means we can maintain a constant presence. We're not going home at night. We're here 24/7," said 1st Lt. David Bopp, platoon leader with Company C, 2nd Bn., 325th AIR.
Until recently, COP Callahan was nothing more than the skeletal remains of what had once been a busy shopping mall. But in the early morning hours of Feb. 7, following dozens of precision-targeted raids in the area by the 2nd Infantry Division's 3rd Stryker BCT, the 2nd Bn. "White Falcons" moved in and occupied the building.
Since then, COP Callahan has been a whirlwind of activity. At any given hour, paratroopers are busy stringing concertina wire, sawing and hammering lumber, and stacking sandbags to ensure maximum force protection. Outside, cranes and forklifts move heavy concrete barriers into place along the perimeter, mindful of the occasional sniper fire. As all of this happens, patrols constantly move in and out to meet the local population.
For the people of Adhamiyah, not accustomed to seeing a coalition presence in their neighborhoods, the sight of paratroopers walking the streets and getting to know the locals is a novelty.
"Being dismounted is the key to winning this fight, in my opinion," said Bopp. "You can't interact with someone behind a window of glass."
Because of the face-to-face contact they invite, foot patrols are the White Falcons' most effective intelligence-gathering tool. Information also gives the paratroopers an understanding of the issues and problems in the community. By acting on both kinds of information and producing tangible results, the White Falcons hope to win the locals over to their side.
The success of the plan will depend largely on the abilities of noncommissioned officers like Sgt. Patrick Ireland, a squad leader with Co. B, 2nd Bn., 325th AIR. When he leaves the COP, Ireland has to be a Soldier, a policeman, a diplomat and a traveling salesman - sometimes all at once.
On one recent patrol, Ireland set out to introduce himself to his new neighbors. He spent the next five hours going door-to-door, collecting business cards, sipping tea, asking polite questions and painstakingly trying to piece scraps of information together to form a complete picture of the area.
"Right now, it's just matching a name with a face, but I guarantee we're going to know these people really, really well by the end of this deployment," Ireland said.
(Sgt. Mike Pryor writes for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.)