Dear Interested Reader,
The 320th FAR conducted a humanitarian assistance drop to the joy of more than 200 children. Seddah hold its first arts festival since 2003, while much progress continues as Iraqi forces show self sufficiency and autonomy. An encouraging story of a year of progress making for a safer Iraq. Marine combat engineers working out of Fallujah are finding less caches and IEDs, bringing security to the area. High level AQI and other criminals are detained.
Multi-National Corps - Iraq
Public Affairs Office, Camp Victory
APO AE 09342
July 31, 2008
MND-N Soldiers deliver supplies to Salah ad Din children
TIKRIT - Soldiers from the 320th FAR conducted a humanitarian assistance drop in the southern Salah ad Din village of Albu Humayid, July 25. More than 200 children from the village gathered to receive clothing, bedding, school supplies, toys and candy.
Medical Soldiers from the unit also provided medical assistance and spent time visiting with the large crowd on hand. "This was a great chance to mingle with the kids from the village and see them smile," said Capt. Jonwayne Lindsey, HHB EO. "A good interpersonal relationship the patrol develops with the people in small population centers is crucial to success in our area."
A girl holds a teddy bear.
Girls from the village hold teddy bears.
MND-B Soldiers detain four suspected criminals in New Baghdad
BAGHDAD - July 30, Soldiers from the 4th BCT, 10th Mtn Div (Lt) conducted operations in the Mashtal area resulting in the detainment of 4 suspected criminals. Two of the suspects were highly sought after criminals, one of whom is a suspected weapons smuggler.
Seddah holds first arts festival since 2003
BAGHDAD - The citizens of Seddah held the city's first arts festival, July 26 in the Seddah City Park since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. Soldiers from the 4th BCT, 3rd ID attended the festival, which was titled "Seddah's Happiness." "During Saddam's time, we were not allowed to conduct such festivals," said Seddah Mayor Ali. "The only festivals were religious. Since the liberation of Iraq, the security situation was not safe enough to conduct any festivals. [the 4th BCT Soldiers] have made our area safe, and this is the reason we were able to hold this festival."
The festival lasted 6 nights with different events each night including puppet shows, skits, painting, sculpting, literature reading, photography and a theatrical play with actors from Iskandariyah. Food stands and vendors were also available for the festival attendees. Tents were set up to display the work of the local artists. Each tent had a theme of either paintings, sculptures, still photographs or poetry.
"As we walked around, we were able to meet some of the artists," said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Williams, a 4th BCT, 3rd ID plt sgt. "They were all very willing and proud to show off their work." Overall, this event showed that the people of Seddah feel they live in a safe and secure area, said Williams. The event was resourced, financed and run by the people of Seddah. International Relief and Development, some nongovt. orgs. and local artists also contributed to the festival.
"It was an honor to be invited to attend the play, and the people were able to see the strong bond between CF and the people of Seddah," said Williams. "We feel this shows how far Seddah has come in the last nine months and how self sufficient the city council has become in Seddah."
Residents watch a theatrical play with actors from Iskandariyah during the final night of the Seddah City Arts Festival.
(Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brent Massey)
A local artist shows off his painting skills.
Blackanthem Military News
Iraqi Forces show self sufficiency, autonomy
By Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
CAMP VICTORY - This past June, IA Soldiers in Taji recovered 2 broken down humvees on their own and restored them without any help from Coalition maintenance. “Probably the most exciting thing for me is I compare (today) to our partnership with the IA in 2006, and it’s night and day,” said Capt. Steve Chadwick, and Iraqi SF coordinator with MND – Center, who was stationed in Tal Afar and Ramadi at that time.
Just 2 years ago, Coalition mechanics took care of the bulk of repairing vehicles and replacing parts. Not anymore, said Chadwick. Maintenance is not the only area where ISF are more proficient. There are now more Regional and Divisional Training Centers in Iraq than ever before, with classes taught by either Iraqi NCOs or civilian instructors expert in a specific field. “The future is the IA taking up training all on its own. It’s already begun,” said Capt Kyle Kirby, an ISF coordinator with the 10th Mtn. Div. Before, many of these courses were supervised or even taught by Coalition instructors. Iraqi forces units also relied more heavily on training with MiTTs.
The Coalition’s partnership with ISF has shifted from a leading role to a strategic one. The Coalition now serves as an “enabler” to help ISF complete missions. This means providing support using advanced technologies Iraqi forces have not yet established. “We make sure the Iraqis get the necessary training and advice, so that they may operate their own military properly,” said Capt. Thomas Obrien, an aide de camp for the Iraqi Assistance Group, which works in partnership with ISF.
One of the major goals in improving Iraq’s forces is by increasing the number of NCOs and officers who can lead and mentor fellow troops. Two elements are working to achieve this goal: recruiting centers and military academies. Currently, there are 13 recruiting stations across Iraq taking applications from local citizens; former IA members wanting to return to service; and SoI. Mobile recruiting drives engage the population in areas without local centers. Three more centers are planned for future efforts.
There are now 15 IP academies in Iraq that can accommodate and train a sum of 20,000 recruits. Among the 15, 2 academies train NP and 3 train border enforcement agents. Another 24 military academies train a variety of ISF, including a naval center, 5 officer schools and other Army training centers and branch schools.
By the end of 2008, 8 training cycles, which began in Dec. 2007, will be complete in an effort to stand up 13 IA Divisions. Each training cycle produces 14,000 new troops, which will account for 112,000 new ISF members by January 2009. Of those, 4,000 will be new officers.
The number of schools and recruits continues to rise, and the quality and variety of their training programs is also improving. Regional centers, such as the ones in Taji and An Numaniyah, teach proficiency in logistics, advanced medical courses, maintenance, armor, welding, and engineering. The training and proficiency of the ISF continue to secure the Iraqi people. Their successes make way for major improvements in the economy, infrastructure and future of Iraq.
On July 20, the people of Najaf celebrated the opening of a new Int'l Airport. During the inauguration ceremony, ISF took charge of providing security without any help from their Coalition counterparts. Throughout Iraq, 10 of the 18 provinces are already under provincial Iraqi control, which places security responsibility with the ISF.
“It’s a good sign to see them taking control of their own country,” said Capt. Dave Hansen, officer-in-charge of the Fusion cell for 10th Mtn. Div.
Blackanthem Military News
A year of progress leads to safer Iraq
By Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
BAGHDAD - In the month of June alone, Iraqi SF and their Coalition partners found 244 caches totaling more than 55,000 pounds of explosive material and other munitions in the MND - Center area of ops.
The caches consisted of mortars, artillery rounds, RPGs, RPG launchers, EFPs, roadside bombs, mines, missiles, rockets, C-4 and other types of weapons.
MND-C forces worked together with local police and the 10th IA Div to secure the city from Shia extremists. "The good news story is that at the end of the day there was no fighting in Amarah, and if the GoI can secure that city, then the population will resist (extremist) members from coming back. They will look down upon violence as well as the fact that the ISF is in control," said Capt. Dave Hansen, officer in charge of the Fusion cell for MND-C. The ISF detained more than 200 wanted criminals without ever squeezing the trigger.
Since the beginning of 2008, local citizens have become more and more involved in reporting criminal activities that lead to either high-value individuals being detained or munitions being found. A year ago, cache finds were scarce. Early last year, CF rarely found more than 50 caches in a month. "Everything is an improvement from a year ago. Attacks are down, and the people are turning in more caches," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Bennett, an intel analyst with the Analyst Control Element for MND-C.
The numbers prove Bennett's claim: in June 2007, there were 321 IED attacks, plus another 194 IEDs found along the roads; this past June, the numbers dropped to 33 IED explosions, an additional 50 were cleared safely.
Precise ops by Coalition and Iraqi forces in Sadr City, Jisr Diyala, Mahmudiyah, Karbala, Najaf, Hillah and Iskandariyah cleared major cities of Shia extremists who relied on those areas for safe havens. The ops contributed to a 68% decrease in criminal activities including arson, carjacking, kidnapping, looting, murder, sabotage, smuggling and theft since November, according to combined Iraqi and Coalition reports.
"Giving control back to the Iraqi people was the key," Bennett said. With terrorists fleeing communities, CF and ISF were able to engage the population and build trust once again. Ops such as Dauntless, which launched in the Mada-in Qada in May, worked throughout MND-C to improve the quality of life for Iraqi citizens through capacity building. While improving Iraq's living conditions, CF and ISF built a trust with its people.
Now that the GoI and its SF are gaining ground and insurgents are losing it, rebuilding process can gain momentum in Iraq, empowered by the single factor of safer communities.
Combat Engineers Finding Fewer IEDs
By Cpl. Chris T. Mann
Regimental Combat Team 1
Lance Cpl. Jeremy D. Mitz, a buffalo arm operator with Co C, uses the mechanical arm on a Mine Resistant Vehicle to search for IEDs in the streets of Karma, during a night op, July 23.
Photo by Cpl. Chris Mann
FALLUJAH — Blinding lights pierce through the darkness on a long and winding stretch of pitch black road, exposing otherwise unseen rusted metal objects and abandoned cars. Behind these bright lights are a group of Marines, part of a route clearance team with 2nd Combat Engr Bn, RCT 1, who are tasked with locating ordnance on and near roads traveled by Iraqi citizens and CF.
The Marines with Co C, conducted an all night street sweeping op, July 23, in the city of Karma. In past years, the city and its surrounding area has been a hotbed for insurgent activity, and many of the roads were heavily laden with IEDs.
Now, the unit is finding very few of the deadly devices and sighs of relief resonate among the Marines. “The threat of IEDs has gone down so much since I last deployed to Iraq; it used to be a pretty regular thing to get hit,” said Sgt. Jacob W. Verschage, vehicle cmdr. “We go out each night and sweep different areas, but are not turning up very much at all anymore.”
“I would characterize the enemy in our area as being neutralized. We still see occasional AQI violence in the area, and we're very watchful to ensure we don't allow a resurgence of AQI activity,” said Col. Lewis A. Craparotta, comm. officer, in an April 21, Dept of Defense news briefing. “Most people believe that AQI has fled al-Anbar, at least for the time being, and it's our responsibility to make sure that they can't reestablish themselves back in our area.”
Although security in the region has improved, the combat engrs are still performing their duties with the aid of state-of-the-art equipment. Engrs use Towing Mine Detection vehicles known as “Huskies,” to scan the area for explosives. They also employ mine resistant ambush protected vehicles called “Buffalos.” The Buffalo is equipped with a mechanical arm that extends beyond the front of the vehicle allowing the Marines to examine and move potentially dangerous objects from a safe distance while conducting their searches.