By Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAOJuly 27, 2009
BAGHDAD - Since Sovereignty Day, an Iraqi national holiday declared on June 30, the Iraqi Security Forces have taken the lead, but the Fort Bliss, Texas-based 591st Military Police Company still has a mission to do - train their Iraqi Police counterparts to take over security on the outskirts of western Baghdad. On July 24, the MPs geared up and prepared to meet with the IPs yet again.
"Our mission hasn't changed," said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Romero, an MP squad leader from San Antonio assigned to the 591st MP Co. "There is still more PTT [police transition team] training that we can do even though they've taken the lead."
According to Romero, the PTT mission is to help build tactical and technical skills in order to make the IPs more proficient. In order to check their progress as a blossoming police station, the 591st MPs frequently visit their IP counterparts.
During this visit, they asked the IPs about what new weapons they've received, what investigations are ongoing, if they've detained anyone and if the Ministry of Interior has made any requests.
Romero noted that the amount of classes the IPs have wanted to take has dropped since June 30 most likely because the IPs thought the MPs were supposed to have been gone.
"By talking to the station commanders, we have been able to slowly spread the word that the June 30 deadline only applied to the city and not the countryside and we're still here to help them out as much as we can," explained 2nd Lt. Romeo Hizon, a platoon leader from El Paso, Texas assigned to the 591st MP Co., 93rd MP Battalion, 8th MP Brigade.
As soon as the MPs arrived at the al-Walid IP station surrounded by farmers tending to their wheat fields, they were swarmed by excited IPs asking, "Class' Class'" But, since it was Friday, the Iraqi officer-in-charge already had a mission to guard a mosque in his area.
"They are good," Lt. Ahmed Nejb Sfar, a patrol commander at al-Walid IP Station said about his CF partners. "When they come here, they help us and give my policemen classes."
The classes, which include: hand-to-hand combat, weapons maintenance, house clearing, vehicle searches and how to run traffic-control points are all something that will make the government stronger, he added.
"These MPs have really helped our training, but we still need them," said Ahmed while he insisted that the IP station was also self-sufficient.
Hizon agreed, but added, "For the most part it's the minor details that are slowing them [IPs] down."
"Our role is, 'Hey, this is what we can do if you need our assistance,'" said Romero after playing a friendly game of dominoes in the IP station to try and strengthen ties with his Iraqi counterparts. "They do still need a little support from Coalition forces...but as far as training goes and providing security for the community, they're good to go."
In order to check on the community and get a sense of security, the MPs loaded back up in their heavily armored vehicles and kicked up clouds of dust over the wheat fields on their way to an IP checkpoint in a quaint market.
Upon arriving, the market was deserted because most Iraqis were at prayer, said Romero. The MPs then dismounted with newspapers to hand out with the IPs at the checkpoint.
"A lot of the community doesn't view us as bad people," continued Romero as he waved back to an Iraqi child in the back seat of a rusted sedan. "We pass out literature on a weekly basis because it benefits the community and us."
He explained that sometimes the flyers contained warnings of improvised explosive devices or insurgents that are wanted by the Government of Iraq. The community is quick to let the IPs or the CF know if they see anything that matches the flyers, added Romero.
"It helps the local people learn about what's going on in their country," said Sgt. George Talkington, an MP team leader from Las Cruces, N.M. about another benefit from passing out literature in the communities.
After shaking hands and bidding good-bye to their fellow IPs, the MPs drove back to their base knowing they helped move Iraq another step toward sovereignty.