By Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAOOctober 20, 2009
BAGHDAD - The streets were quiet in central Baghdad, just east of the Tigris River. No rockets or mortars were fired into the International Zone or any other forward operating bases around the area, Oct. 18.
That's because the Soldiers of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, joined up with Iraqi Army Soldiers to disrupt the enemy's ability to conduct indirect fire.
"We do these patrols for force protection for FOB Shield and it keeps [insurgents] from launching into the IZ," said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Walker, a cavalry scout platoon sergeant from Grand Rapids, Mich., assigned to Co. C. "Most launches are at night and it gives us the opportunity to use night vision goggles and the enemy doesn't even know we're coming until we're up on them."
As dusk fell, the Soldiers joined up with their IA counterparts and traveled the dark alleyways silently to prevent insurgents from operating in the area and threatening the locals living there.
"For the majority of the population, they seem to be a little more at ease with us," continued Walker. "Most of the areas don't harbor bad guys, but they come into the area. So mostly, the locals are happy to see us."
The IA Soldiers in the lead stop every so often to further inspect a suspicious box or wiring on the ground, but keep the patrol moving past local vendors who wave and shout greetings.
"It means a lot to the people in the community to see us working together," explained 1st Sgt. Hamid Majeed Salak, assigned to 2nd Co., 3rd Bn., 43th Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division. "The people feel that we are close to the U.S. forces and that makes them feel good."
It also makes the Americans feel good when the IA Soldiers are as technically and tactically sound as the ones that night, explained Sgt. Ryan Tullis, a forward observer from Gillette, Wyo.
"These guys were pretty good. They were turning around, pulling rear security, looking at rooftops and checking cars, as opposed to standing around with their weapons at their sides," explained Tullis about the improvement he's noticed during his three tours to Baghdad.
"Between us and the help of the IA, the security situation has drastically improved," added Tullis. But he also knows that the mission isn't over yet.
The biggest part of Tullis' job now is to prepare his IA counterparts to take over patrols like these as U.S. troops continue to withdraw and handover security back to Iraqis.
"These joint patrols let the community see we're giving the IA control to let them take the next step to be in control of their own country," Tullis said.
After a few hours of walking the streets, the joint patrol comes to an end with Walker asking Hamid if there is anything else he would like to look at. The U.S. forces stay away from dictating the mission pace or schedule, because soon they won't be around to help prod the young IA what to do.
"The IA are standing up on their own feet and we're slowly turning it over to them, so it's their fight and we can get out of here," said Walker as he shook hands with Hamid , saying their goodbyes.
The Soldiers got back into their humvees and another Cobra Patrol ended in successfully keeping the insurgents from launching indirect fire and helping to get the IA one step closer to autonomy.