FALLUJAH, Iraq --
On the outskirts of Fallujah, Iraqi Police and Coalition forces stand guard to provide security at city boundaries. Each day, vehicles and pedestrians pass through entry control points after consenting to a vehicle search and personal identification check.
These security measures prevent unauthorized persons and persons with illegal weapons and explosive materials from entering the city to harm others.
After serving in the area last year, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1 recently deployed to the Fallujah area with an evolved mission to transition counter-insurgency operations to local Iraqi security forces. ECP-1 is one of many checkpoints where IPs and trained Iraqi guards have stepped up and taken a more active role in securing the city.
One of the IP staff sergeants in charge of ECP-1, named ‘Masoud,’ said the IPs’ main job is to keep the order and prevent incidents from occurring at their post.
The IPs work shifts on-foot and perform searches and vehicle checks with citizens passing into Fallujah. The long hours, limited manpower and an occasionally upset civilian attempting to pass illegally makes the job difficult, but other than that, the IPs do a good job, Masoud said.
The IPs and guards have a wealth of security training that Coalition forces have helped them develop over time. ECP-1 can be taken as an example of how other ECPs currently operate. On the coalition side, Marines check identifications to make sure pedestrians are allowed to enter. A corporal of the guard is in charge of his Marines and observes the IPs in an overwatch position. The rest is left to the IPs, where they maintain security, prepare to detain persons if necessary, and continue the flow of traffic and pedestrians into the city.
Still as the transition of security from Coalition forces continues, a well-established state of security cannot be achieved overnight.
Staff Sgt. ‘Madil,’ a senior IP at ECP-1, said throughout two years of working at ECPs, he and others have learned much from Marines, but if they were to leave today, it would be very hard maintain their position.
It is not easy working here, but the guards do well, he said. He said the resources and the number of men needed there are the main issues that he hopes will change in time.
Staff Sgt. Tommy Webb, watch officer for ECP-1, described his impressions of the IP’s development over the length of his deployments.
“My first deployment here in 2005, the Iraqi Army and Police were totally disorganized,” Webb said. “They were like a mob. They even went on strike because their higher-ups weren’t paying them, weren’t giving them water and weren’t giving them the supplies they needed. My second deployment last year, they were a lot better, but they still needed a lot of work training-wise. I came back this year, I’ve been here almost a month now and I’m impressed. It’s like a totally different organization. They seem like they’re team players, they’re more willing to work with the Marines. They’re all about helping the people."
During the morning hours, Webb said he watched the Iraqi Police take charge as they cleared an accident along the bridge just past ECP-1. As a former sheriff deputy, he said it almost reminded him of how the “troopers handle an accident back in the states.” It was something he said he’d never witnessed here in the past, but it’s an indication that Iraq’s security elements are maturing.
Webb said he has faith in Iraqis securing their own territories, but expressed how no country can instantly succeed on their own.
“More than anything, it’s just going to take time,” Webb said. “They’re almost ready to take over, but in my opinion, for years to come they’re going to need help from us. Think about it this way, the United States is a young country and we still don’t have it mastered. We can’t expect Iraq to just take over in the two or three years we’ve been trying. It’s a slow, steady progression.”