By Staff Sgt. Peter Ford ,MND-B PAOMay 4, 2009
BAGHDAD - As the Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Panthers," 82nd Airborne Division, walk the streets of New Baghdad, a neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, children run from their houses to shake hands with the Soldiers and ask questions about the United States.
Some of the Soldiers entertained the children while others maintained security. Panther leaders spoke with local store owners and residents in order to build stronger relationships in the community on these foot patrols.
"We are putting a face on the American Soldier," said Sgt. Andy Zeigler, a military policeman assigned to HHC. "The unit before us primarily did mounted patrol," said the Dumas, Texas native.
Armored vehicles provide additional protection for Soldiers on mounted patrols, but the downfalls include limited visibility and less interaction with local people.
"Now since the area is much safer, we do more foot patrols," said Capt. Brian Englund, a native of Rochester, N.Y., commander of HHC. "By walking the streets, we can make a good impression on the people here in New Baghdad."
Local residents and store owners became more receptive to the Soldiers once the people saw the Coalition forces are genuinely interested in helping them, according to Englund. Many people invite the Soldiers in for tea or offer them food to show their appreciation for the efforts the paratroopers have made to secure and improve the community.
"Every day we walk down the streets of Baghdad talking to local people trying to help as much as we can," said 1st Lt. Daniel Maxfield, from Fairfax, Va., a platoon leader with HHC. "Because of our constant presence and the trust we have built, people now talk to us about all sorts of problems."
"I think we have a great relationship with the people in the neighborhoods in which we patrol," said Pfc. Michael Godfrey, a Senoia, Ga. native, s a military policeman assigned to the company.
As the Panthers end their patrol, they give children candy and wave goodbye, making lasting impressions on the people in New Baghdad.