By Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Calvary DivisonApril 2, 2007
KHAN DARI, Iraq, March 29, 2007 - Making the streets safer for Iraqi civilians in their area of operations has been one of the main goals for troopers from the 2nd "Lancer" Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment.
After three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) detonated, including one that injured two children near a school here March 25, soldiers were out gathering information March 26 to help catch those responsible and to continue building relationships with the people living in the village. The children who are in good condition were sent to a local area hospital where they are recuperating from their injuries. No one was hurt in the other two incidents.
"After seeing what happened to those kids, we know if we can continue getting information from anyone who can help us clean out insurgents here and find weapons caches, we're making this a safer place down the line for the local nationals," said Staff Sgt. William Stone, a squad leader from Company E, 2nd Battalion., 5th Calvary Regiment. "All the people here say the same things, they want our help, they want safety and they want the insurgents to go away."
As the troops from Company E conducted a foot patrol they went from house to house, asking about the IED strikes the day before, inquiring about the welfare of the people living there and collected information on terrorists and insurgent cells operating in the area.
Every so often, they would find homes where there were children and give them crayons and jump ropes.
On their first stop, an Iraqi family eagerly greeted the U.S. troops, offering them tea, a sign that shows the difference between how the people in the villages feel about the insurgents compared with their feelings for U.S. troops, according to Miles City, Mont. native Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Pluhar, a platoon sergeant for Company E, 2nd Battalion., 5th Calvary Regiment
"To hurt children just goes to show that the bad guys don't care about the people living here," Pluhar said. "Apparently the insurgents don't have families or feelings like normal people, they're simply ruthless thugs."
At one house, Pluhar spoke to an Iraqi farmer, who told Pluhar he had not heard about the IED strike by the school but would be willing to give information if he did.
"Let us know if you see or hear anything. If the insurgents don't care about killing Americans or Iraqi security forces, they certainly don't care about hurting innocent civilians to achieve their goals," said Pluhar, speaking to the man through an interpreter and referring to the IED strike near the school. "So please let us know if you see anything, help us help you."
On one of their last stops, an Iraqi man thanked the U.S. troops for their help telling them that he felt safe when they were patrolling his neighborhood. "When you meet people like that you really feel like we're doing some good," Stone said.
Although the mission did not yield much information on the three strikes, the soldiers said that they have had a lot of cooperation from the people in getting information leading to the capture of insurgents on previous patrols, which is due, they say in large part to their building of trust with the Iraqis living in the villages in which they patrol.
Sumner, Ill. native Spc. Michael Evans, a mortarman for Company E, reflected on what the day's mission meant to him. "It's a great feeling to know we're contributing to getting insurgents off the streets so the people don't have to live in fear from someone killing their children or hurting them," said Evans.
"I'll be coming away from this with a lot bigger appreciation of life in general and knowing that I was doing something to help the Iraqi people and the American people-for us, so that what happened on 9-11 never happens again," he added.