By Sgt. Michael Pryor, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division Public AffairsFebruary 21, 2007
BAGHDAD (Army News Service, Feb. 21, 2007) - Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, who are partnered with soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division and the 8th Brigade, 2nd National Police Division are taking back the streets of east Baghdad's Adhamiyah district.
The "Black Falcons" of the 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment are conducting foot patrols along the major avenues in Adhamiyah to deny insurgents the opportunity to set roadside bombs and disrupt their ability to move weapons and materials in and out of the area.
"It's going to put pressure on the bad guys, because we're out there all the time, and they know we're going to be looking for them," said Sgt. Eric Meinhardt, a squad leader.
The Black Falcons, based at a joint (U.S. and Iraqi) combat outpost in the Rabi area, have been conducting constant patrols since their arrival in early February. This is the first time their area of operations has had a dedicated, constant coalition presence.
"(The insurgents) basically had a free pass on this road before, so the idea now is to really saturate it with 82nd guys," said 1st Lt. Josh Rowan, a platoon leader.
On a recent patrol, Rowan's platoon of paratroopers moved easily along the streets, interacting with the local people. Whenever they shut down a section of the road, boys immediately poured out onto the street to play soccer.
As they moved, the paratroopers' eyes were constantly scanning, looking for anything out of the ordinary.
In addition to patrols, the Black Falcons are manning vehicle check points (VCPs), randomly selecting vehicles to be searched. The idea is to turn the tables on insurgents coming into the area and make it dangerous for them to travel on the roads, rather than coalition forces. Iraqis depend on the road networks as much as U.S. forces.
"The hope is that, with VCPs, we'll be able to catch (criminals) off guard," said Rowan.
On Feb. 14, the Black Falcons apprehended several men at a VCP who were traveling with four dead, mutilated bodies in their truck, apparently the victims of sectarian killings that have gripped this city and led to the troop "surge" that brought this brigade to Iraq.
Even when the paratroopers aren't physically out on the streets, they are still a threat to insurgents. The close proximity of their combat outpost to the main roads means they can respond to suspicious activity almost immediately.
"There's no point in our area of operations that is more than 3 kilometers away from the command outpost. If something happens, we can be there in minutes," said Lt. Col. Al Shoffner, the Black Falcons' commander.
When helicopter pilots flying overhead saw men suspiciously digging holes by the side of a road in Rabi one night last week, they alerted the Black Falcons' operations center. A quick reaction force was scrambled and arrived on the scene quickly enough to capture the four men.
Rowan said he hopes such shows of force and the constant sight of paratroopers walking the streets sends a message to insurgents that they can't do their dirty work in Adhamiyah anymore.
"Hopefully they'll realize that we're going to do this 24-7," said Rowan. "They can't wait us out."