By Sgt. Jon Soles, MND-B PAOJune 23, 2009
BAGHDAD - It is said you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The Iraqi Police who patrolled a crowded Baghdad market with Soldiers of Company A, 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, only needed that one chance.
"Old Hickory" Soldiers who teamed up with the Balad Iraqi Police for the first time expressed satisfaction with the way the Iraqis conducted security operations and gathered information in a market in the Doura neighborhood here, June 11.
"It was our first time working with these IP and I was impressed with how they interacted with the shopkeepers," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Tompkins, an infantry platoon sergeant assigned to Co. A. "I felt things went really well considering we had not worked with these IP before."
Tompkins said the purpose of patrolling with the IP is to help them get established in their role of providing day-to-day security in their muhalla, or neighborhood.
"We're trying to get them used to that role and getting the public used to seeing the IP," said Tompkins, who is from Garner, N.C.
Soldiers of the 30th HBCT and the IP went from shop to shop, inquiring about security needs, while shoppers browsed the open air markets for goods such as clothes, fresh produce and appliances. According to an IP, it was a good place to take the pulse of the neighborhood.
"We always ask the people in the businesses about the security situation," said Mahir Raad Ahmed, an Iraqi Police officer. "Since the last time we were out here, everything has been good."
While key leaders of the platoon were in the shops talking with business owners, infantrymen pulled security on the streets and from the turrets of humvees. Sgt. Nathaniel Jacobs, an infantryman assigned to A Co., kept a close eye on his fellow Soldiers and a watchful eye on the Iraqi shoppers at the market.
"I'm just giving [key leaders] an extra set of eyes and keeping my guys on the ground and in the vehicles on their toes," said Jacobs, a Fayetteville, N.C. native.
Jacobs said he hoped such patrols, coupled with the IP's presence, would continue to discourage insurgents from showing up in markets like the one in Doura.
"We want to show the people we are the good guys; we are on their side and the bad guys need to go somewhere else," said Jacobs.
Another Soldier pulling security on the patrol was Sgt. Reginald Knight, an infantryman also assigned to A Co.
"I think it helps build a good relationship with the Iraqi people and helps build up security," said Knight, of Gates, N.C.
Several Iraqis did not have concerns about security, but instead brought up concerns about public utilities like water and power. But according to Tompkins, the face-to-face meetings with business owners and Iraqis on the street are helpful for security.
"That was the first time we went into the shops and talked to the people, and from what I saw, the people seemed receptive," Tompkins said. "We put a face on the Coalition forces."
Though building relationships with Iraqis is important, Tompkins explained the real goal is to gradually hand over responsibility of the area to the IP. The IP will conduct a daily beat in the area and continue to take the lead in keeping the streets safe.
"They met their commitment," Tompkins said. "They just jumped right in and did their job. They took charge."
Based on their first meeting, Tompkins said he expects the IP to keep progressing and fulfilling their role as security providers. With first impressions like this the IPs will not have to worry about making a second impression upon their community.