CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq -- Reserve Marines from 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment
, Regimental Combat Team 5 based here worked with local Iraqi leadership to hold the first-ever regional security meeting for the Rutbah district Dec. 20.
The venue for the event was a large Quonset hut at “H3,” an Iraqi Army outpost in western al-Anbar Province.
“It’s an opportunity for Iraqi Security Forces, Iraqi Police, elected officials and all those elements entrusted with regional security to come together with Coalition forces for mutual cooperation and to discuss security issues,” said Maj. Craig Abele, 37, the battalion’s operations officer.
More than 50 key leaders from throughout the district attended, representing all elements of the local Iraqi security network and various Marine units based throughout the area. An array of issues was discussed, but the primary focus was on security preparation for the upcoming elections and coordinating efforts against the remaining vestiges of the insurgency.
Lt. Col. Geoff Rollins, the battalion’s commander, opened the meeting with a clear message to his Iraqi allies that the future of the country is now in their hands.
“Starting in 2009, the ISF, who are more than capable of taking the lead, will in fact be in the lead on all operations,” said Rollins. “In the short time that I and my task force have been here, we have seen a significant increase in the security posture, along with gains in economics and governance. You have all worked very hard to get to where you are now, and this meeting is an important step in continuing the progress. You have elections coming in January. This will be a critical time for all Iraqis. Ensuring the safety and security of the people will go a long way to ensuring the longevity of the democratic process.”
Rollins was seated at the head table with other key local Iraqi leaders, such as Lt. Col Abdul Razak, the Rutbah district chief of police.
Razak, 40, spent 17 years as an officer in the Iraqi Army and has been with the police since 2006. His police officers are charged with keeping order in the district’s cities.
While the police are keeping order in the cities, the Iraqi Army will ensure the security of the open desert surrounding the population centers.
“It is our job to support the police and coordinate with Coalition forces,” said Col. Abbas Aiyed Raddad, commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion, 29th Iraqi Army Brigade. “The insurgency may try to prevent the elections, but the people must hear the candidates’ voices,” said Raddad through interpretation.
A 42-year-old native of Nassiriya, Raddad has spent more than half his life in the Iraqi Army and stated that the troops he leads now are better trained, equipped and more professional than ever before.
Based at H3, Raddad served as host for the event. He ensured that all attendees were treated to mansef, a dish of baked lamb, rice, fresh vegetables, flat bread and fruit.
Standing next to their Iraqi counterparts, the Marines dined in traditional Iraqi fashion, scooping up handfuls of food from the communal plates.
The meeting finished shortly after lunch, and the Coalition forces and ISF departed in convoys for various locations throughout the district.
“We met our goal today of planning to achieve a safe environment for the elections,” said Raddad. “The progress and development of Iraq and our economy depends on this.”