HADITHA TRIAD, Iraq -- Iraqi Police officers patrolled the Haditha Triad region’s windswept streets for the first time in more than two years thanks to an operation led by Marines here in August.
Marines of the Hawaii-based 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, known as “America’s Battalion,” partnered with Iraqi soldiers and police, captured more than 30 suspected insurgents in the operation dubbed “Guardian Tiger IV.”
The Iraqi Police also talked to hundreds of men who expressed interest in participating in future police recruitments in the region’s cities of Barwana, Haqlaniyah and Haditha, which are nestled along the Euphrates River about 130 miles northwest of Baghdad.
According to 1st Lt. Victor Lance, 26, officer-in-charge of the 3rd Battalion Police Transition Team, a permanent police force will begin its implementation before year’s end. The Police Transition Team is responsible for training Iraqi police officers and assisting in recruiting police. They also screen candidates during the recruiting.
3rd Battalion is the unit responsible for training and mentoring Iraqi Security Forces along with providing security in this region.
“Everyone we talked to in the Triad region said they would be supportive of a police force and many asked about the pay and benefits,” said Lance. “We let the people know that the Iraqi police and the Marines would protect them from the insurgents.”
Many of the police officers who came from various regions in Northern Iraq had previously served as law enforcement officials in the Triad region, but fled when they were forced out by insurgents. Some came from neighboring towns, said Lance, a native of New Hope, Pa.
In the early stages of the operation, the police quickly spotted insurgents who were suspected of previous attacks on coalition and Iraqi Security Forces while patrolling the streets of the region. Temporary police stations were then established for an incoming police force, said Lance.
The police went house-to-house in the region spreading word of the upcoming police recruitment. Groups of 50 or more men often came up to the police and asked about pay and benefits. This is a very different story than it was last year, according to Marines here. Talking to or cooperating with Iraqi Security Forces was a sure death sentence from insurgents. Past recruitments in the Haditha Triad region showed minimal results because of this, said Lance.
The fact that residents in the Triad region are supporting the police and their recruiting efforts is a sign that the region is one step closer to turning over security operations to Iraqi Security Forces, vice coalition forces, said Lance.
“Many brave Iraqi men are willing to put their lives on the line by volunteering to join the Haditha Triad Police Force,” said Lance. “They are focused on ridding the Triad of terrorists and making it a safe place for the people in the region.”
Lance’s assessment seems to reflect the recent trend of Iraqi men stepping forward to protect their communities by joining the growing police force in western Al Anbar. Five hundred volunteers joined last month as a result of the most successful police recruiting drive to date, according to Maj. Lowell F. Rector, the Police Implementation Officer for Regimental Combat Team 7.
The 500 recruits are expected to boost western Al Anbar’s police force to 2,200 uniformed policemen.
Regimental Combat Team 7 is the unit responsible for training and recruiting Iraqi Security Forces in western Al Anbar — an area of more than 30,000 square miles in size.
During the past two months insurgents have made desperate attacks against ISF and Coalition Forces, but had minimal results, said Lt. Col. Norman L. Cooling, commanding officer of 3rd Battalion.
The Battalion’s successes during Operation Guardian Tiger IV resulted in desperate attacks conducted by anti-Iraqi forces, said Cooling, 42, a native of Baytown, Texas. “They see the growing capability of the Iraqi Army and recent fielding of the Iraqi Police as the clear beginning of the end to their influence in the Triad.”
Lance said with Iraqi police and soldiers working hand-in-hand, Coalition Forces will not be needed in the area.
“The bottom line here is that the insurgents’ days are surely numbered here in the Haditha Triad,” said Lance. “Soon, their own countrymen are going to be the ones holding them accountable for their crimes.”
Lt. Col. Mazher Hassan of the Baghdadi Police Force agrees with Lance that the insurgent’s days are numbered. Baghdadi is a neighboring city of the Haditha Triad and has a population of 30,000.
“We told the people that if they want security, they need to join the police force and work with us and not be afraid of the insurgents,” said Hassan. “The more men we have to volunteer to fight insurgents by becoming policemen, the less power the insurgents will have.”
The Marines from 3rd Battalion are in their last month of a seven-month deployment to Iraq and will be replaced by another Hawaii-based U.S. Marine battalion.
Email Sgt. Seigle at Seiglemf@gcemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil