CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq - Back in High Ridge, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, David Curtis is a hero, a local police officer who has given 28 years to the force.

Here in Iraq, fifty-two year old Curtis plays an integral part in Operation New Dawn and he is not alone. A member of an elite community, law enforcement professionals, better known as LEPs in Iraq, are police officers from the United States recruited by private companies to advise and work with U.S. Forces while training the Iraqi Police and Army.

Curtis and other law enforcement professionals come from many different police backgrounds. Their experiences range in everything from narcotics divisions, Fugitive Apprehension Strike Teams (FAST) and detective units. Because of their diverse backgrounds, they bring a wide array of knowledge and experience.

While they may or may not be military veterans, LEPs like Curtis have shown they are not hesitant to go on patrols and help out where they are needed. Their eagerness to interact with the Iraqi population is instrumental in molding Iraqi police officers into a professional force.

Curtis played professional baseball for a short stint when he was younger and regrets that he missed his chance to serve in the Armed Forces. "Doing this, being here in Iraq, working with America's heroes has given me the opportunity to directly serve my country," Curtis said. "I am an old man, working with these great young warriors who are dedicated to a cause greater than themselves. It has inspired me to make a difference as well."

Curtis is the father of three children. Casey is a Staff Sgt. in the Army and currently deployed to Afghanistan while his daughter is about to begin her first year at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Attached to Task Force 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Curtis has been helping investigate recent improvised explosive device attacks. He tags along with patrols on the International Highway to gauge the attitude and security status for U.S. Forces and Iraq citizens. Curtis occasionally rides on missions with Capt. Grady Dacus, from Denton, Texas, a platoon leader for Headquarters Battery, Task Force 2nd Bn., 82nd FA Regt.

Dacus said "[Curtis] is a valuable asset for key leader engagements and in building relationships. His demeanor and appearance demands respect in the Iraqi culture which helps us gather important intelligence which we might have never been able to receive."

Operation New Dawn presents new and interesting challenges. Our hometown heroes dressed in blue are important to the success of a country with an unsure future. From Afghanistan to Iraq, all the way to small town U.S.A., law enforcement professionals like Curtis are a small but necessary piece of a self-sustaining diplomatic Iraq.