By Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAOApril 20, 2009
BAGHDAD - In a neighborhood in northern Adhamiyah here, a 3-foot wide pipe juts out of murky water connecting two steep banks. The north side of the canal has lush, green fields of varying crops. On the south side, there are disheveled residences with children peeking out from behind doorways. From the fields to their homes, children work with their parents transporting crops on their backs across the pipe that intersects the canal. But crops aren't the only things that can be transported across these slippery pipes.
"This is one of only a few locations where locals can get from the north to the south," said 1st Lt. Adrian Moreno, a combat engineer and platoon leader from Houston assigned to Echo Troop, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "We have to make sure they are only transporting crops and that the people aren't transporting improvised explosive device materials and weapons."
Stopping the flow of IED materials, weapons and other contraband into the center of Baghdad from places like Shaab on the outskirts of the city, is a difficult task. According to Moreno, Echo Troop has located possible smuggling points and increased security on the canals in their area of operation during Operation Magnon al-Wombet.
"Any area's going to have its weak links. One of the weakest links in the outskirts of Baghdad I've noticed is the farmlands and the canals," said Sweetwater, Texas native Cpl. Martin McDonell, a combat engineer team leader assigned to Echo Troop. "That's where a lot of weapons smuggling is coming in, so if we provide disruption patrols up there and maybe make the terrorists or insurgents...make them think twice about bringing weapons into the area, then it's going to benefit the city center and our AO specifically in Shaab."
For this operation, the Echo Troop Soldiers work hand-in-hand with the Iraqi National Police to establish checkpoints in critical smuggling thoroughfares.
"These checkpoints are external checkpoints on the outskirts that we set up and control and search people," added Maj. Talib Mishat Khamis, the commander for the 4th Company, 3rd Bn., 4th Bde., 1st National Police Division. "With these checkpoints, we can control the stability and climate of the center of Baghdad."
These operations are vital to the security of Baghdad and have an active role in seizing weapons headed toward the heart of the city, added Talib.
"The people that are trying to smuggle in weapons see us out here and they're going to think twice about it," explained McDonell. "The Iraqi population is going to see us doing these CPs and they're going to feel more secure and more comforted. It's just a snowball effect of things getting better."
Getting better for Coalition forces, Iraqi Security Forces, but more importantly, it's getting better for the people of Iraq.
"When citizens see us out here providing security, they feel more secure," emphasized Talib. "We notice it on the people's faces. When they pass us, they give us a warm greeting."
Even though many of the Iraqi farmers have toiled most of the day in the fields just north of the canal, they don't mind being stopped on their way back home.
"I believe that the majority of them don't see it as a hindrance," confided McDonell. "It may disrupt their daily lives a little bit, but what they realize is that a minor disruption today is insignificant compared to if we hadn't done these."
The few minutes it takes Moreno and his men to thoroughly search the heaping bags of freshly reaped wheat will safeguard the neighborhood of Shaab. Operations like Magnon al-Wombet, secure the smaller neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city directly impacting the overall security of Baghdad.