By Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAOJune 22, 2009
BAGHDAD - The blue camouflage of the Iraqi National Police and American gray/green camouflage flashes in and out of dark rooms in dilapidated, abandoned buildings in Doura, here, June 10. The derelict buildings are littered with trash, overgrown with vegetation and sometimes occupied by packs of stray dogs.
Yet the officers of 1st Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Brigade, 2nd National Police Division and Company A, 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team Soldiers are looking for something else.
"We're checking these abandoned houses because bad guys are putting weapons caches and explosives in these," said Staff Sgt. Robert Warmack, an infantryman squad leader assigned to the North Carolina National Guard's "Anvil" Co., 252nd CAB, 30th HBCT. "It's a big deterrent for the bad guys if we're out here more."
Over the past few years, people have moved out of the area, abandoning their homes. The joint search was to ensure insurgents weren't squatting in the buildings or using them to store weapons, added Sgt. Gabriel Herrold, an infantry team leader, also assigned to A Co.
"We searched the abandoned lots and fields to show people that they can't hide stuff there," continued Herrold, from Jackson, N.C. "In the past, we've found mortar rounds, [rocket-propelled grenades], AK-47s...you never know what could be in those buildings."
The joint search didn't yield any contraband, but it did send the message to the community that it's a safe place to live and it's safe to come back home now, added Warmack, from Cove City, N.C.
"They are welcome back home," said Capt. Moaed Qasin Mohammed, the commander of 1st Co., 3rd Bn., 7th Bde., 2nd NP Div. "The people have to show their paperwork and we try to let them come back as soon as they can. Recently, people have moved back to the area and telephoned their friends to come back because it is secure."
In the past, the NP company commander increased patrols in the area and asked Coalition forces if they could assist. Now, he has noticed the community becoming safer because of the cooperation between the NPs and CF on missions like this, added Moaed.
"Something like this is pretty simple - we get out there working with the Iraqi Security Forces and people see that we're making an effort to transition security over to them," said Herrold. "The goal is to show a presence in the area and let the ISF get out there to show they're taking an interest in the area."
The local community seems to support and embrace the ISF and U.S. union and the added security they provide, explained Herrold.
"If they didn't know we're trying to help them out, then they wouldn't be as friendly," explained Herrold, as he waves at an Iraqi child while following an NP toward another house.
"Today was pretty much a joint thing - they know the area and houses to go to and we provide security," continued Herrold. "They're helping us as much as we're helping them."
Children smiled and community members waved as the joint search flowed smoothly from house to house, with the NPs sharing their knowledge of the area and the CF showing how to properly provide security.
After jumping fences and climbing rickety stairs, Herrold had a moment to contemplate how these types of missions might affect the future of ISF.
"Maybe what we do; they'll pick up on a little," he said. "And when we're out of the country and something happens, they'll have something to fall back on."
The foundation the Anvil Soldiers are helping the ISF build and the encouragement these North Carolina National Guard Soldiers are giving Iraqis to return to their communities, might help fill these empty homes once again.