FALLUJAH, Iraq --
Improvised explosive device sweeps and food bag deliveries are just two examples of the daily tasks Company K, 3rd Battalion 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team-1 and Iraqi Police (IP) are performing together in the Khadairy district and surrounding areas in Fallujah.
As Coalition forces transition their security role to IPs, they conduct countless patrols at all hours through their area of operation while IPs lead from the front. When IPs patrol the streets and generate local interaction, they can be viewed as the proverbial “tip of the spear” in the eyes of Coalition forces and more importantly the citizens of Fallujah. This personnel arrangement is creating a stronger presence of local security, establishing it where it belongs allowing Coalition forces to one day hand over their authority.
During a morning patrol on May 7, IPs led an IED sweep with Marines off first squad, third platoon, through an area that has been free of terrorist or insurgent activity in the recent months. Like every morning, now citizens are working day-labor projects, cleaning the city streets as IPs pass through and briefly intermingle with the workers, checking their daily progress.
In an open stretch of land near the railroad tracks, there is a road currently open only to military traffic. Children will come here after school to play soccer in the fields, but many adults are wary of terrorists reusing the area to plant explosives to target Coalition forces.
Day laborers remove the garbage and clutter that can potentially be used to make or conceal explosives and IPs man a guard post here to ensure their safety. While some IPs overwatch at the guard post, others are passing through on patrols, showing that police presence is strong.
Sgt. Edward Mitchell III, squad leader with 1st Squad, said he accompanies three to six IPs on his combined patrols and that locals are inspired by seeing Iraqis lead Marines through the streets.
“When the community sees that the IPs are out here and that they’re getting involved, it gets them more amped up to (the idea of) having the IPs take control of the city,” Mitchell said. “One of these days in the future, we’ll get the Coalition forces out of here and the Iraqis will be able to control their own. They want that as much as we do.”
Mitchell said even without an interpreter, the IPs and Marines communicate efficiently with hand signals and voice inflections. The IPs are helpful during patrols and daily missions for anything from added security to providing crowd control during charitable offerings.
Another frequent task that Coalition forces are assisting IPs with is distributing food bags in the poorer neighborhoods. During these operations, IPs not only lead from the front, but use their vehicles and their own elbow grease to see that all of the supplies are handed out fairly.
Later that morning, Mitchell and his squad met IPs in a neighborhood that is identified as less fortunate. The IPs loaded their vehicles with food bags and traveled at a slow pace through the streets. Mitchell set up his Marines to “ride the rails”, or provide overwatch security for the IP vehicle while the IPs performed their door-to-door service.
Mitchell told the IPs before the patrol that it is important for them to lead because they know where the poorer families live in the city. In addition, when IPs are seen performing these tasks, it puts their name on the mission, which is reputable to them.
IPs are directly involved with special tasks like these every day and its making a difference in the people.
1st Lt. “Sief”, an officer with the Iraqi Police at Joint Security Station Khadairy, said compared to last year, the city is much quieter now and free of violence.
This year, more and more men are stepping up to become IPs because of the difference they see being made in the city, Sief said. “The IPs here have an obligation to the law. You can ask anyone here, not just the IPs or the Coalition forces. Ask the people and they will tell you the difference being made.”