By Staff Sgt. Antonieta Rico, 5th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentMarch 20, 2007
QAYARRAH, Iraq, March 16, 2007 - Iraqi army soldiers seized a convoy of 20 illegal fuel trucks carrying crude oil in the Qayarrah region, south of Mosul, Feb. 20.
Crude oil is often sold on the black market in the Irbil Province, which has an oil refinery in eastern Iraq. Profits are believed to fund terrorism.
"We know black market (oil) profits are...used to support anti-Iraqi forces," said Master Sgt. Hernan Rincon, intelligence noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the "Black Dragons," 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, out of Fort Bliss, Texas.
Iraqi army soldiers, manning a check point, stopped the convoy of vehicles after determining they were illegal based on fake documents the drivers were carrying.
"As far as coalition forces and the Iraqi army are concerned, (oil smuggling is) a criminal act that the IPs deal with," said 1st Lt. Alexander Moen, a native of Winnebago, Ill.
"Once the (Iraqi Army) realized this was just illegal (oil) smuggling they contacted the IPs and the IPs came," Moen said, "It's a good working relationship between the two of them; it's a big step forward for the area."
It was also a big step forward for the Iraqi army and soldiers of 1st Platoon, Battery B, who a month prior had trained the Iraqi Army on these types of patrol operations. The platoon worked with them in the area to teach them how to search vehicles and how to spot fake documents.
"We taught these guys how to do this, now they are doing it," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Blanchard, 1st Platoon sergeant.
"This is good news to me because the lessons that we taught these guys, and what to look for, are now paying off," he said.
Training the Iraqi army has a positive chain reaction in the region. Having the Iraqi security forces successfully perform their job helps discourage criminal activity, said Duran.
"It scares other people and they will not do it as much, because they know that those guys got caught," he said.
It also sends a positive message to the people in the area.
"It makes them feel better, that we are actually out there, and the IPs are out there, and the (Iraqi Army) are out there doing their job," Duran said.
Blanchard, originally from Aurora, Colo., credits the junior leaders and soldiers in his platoon with training the Iraqi army to be successful.
"Those are the guys that are really where it happens at," Blanchard said.