By Cpl. Adam Johnston, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service
Jan. 7, 2008 - How many Marines does it take to secure Baghdadi? Last year, it took an entire company. Then, as the situation improved, that number dropped to a platoon. And now, with the onset of 2008, the grand total is zero. The Marines of 2nd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, have completely pulled out of Command Outpost Baghdadi. Fortunately for local citizens, their replacements already are hard at work.
In a monumental step toward Iraqi sovereignty, the Baghdadi police force has taken sole responsibility of security within the city limits -- the first to do so in all of Anbar Province.
"In the past, battalions were measured on how many battle positions they established during a deployment," said Marine Lt. Col. J.J. Dill, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. "It showed they were moving out into the community, partnering with (Iraqi security forces) to make things happen. But in this stage of the counterinsurgency battle, it's not how many we put up, it's how many we take down."
The transfer of authority comes as a direct result of the Baghdadi police force's validation, which is determined by U.S. and coalition forces.
"It's a checklist of where they're at," explained Marine Capt. Craig T. Douglas, commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. "Can they run their own investigations, conduct security patrols? Are they self-sufficient?"
With their own battle space, the Baghdadi police face their toughest challenge yet. Douglas said they're ready for the mission. "They want the bad guys out of here just as much as we do," he said. "With logistical support from the government of Iraq, they should be OK."
If the Baghdadi police officers need emergency assistance, the Marines won't be far behind.
"We'll still be in an overwatch capacity," Douglas said. "But they know that, one day, we'll be gone. They'll need to be able to do things for themselves."
When the new police station is complete, it also will host city council meetings and other government functions.
"Many people back home think the 'Anbar Awakening' happened overnight," Dill said. "But where we're at today is the culmination of four years' worth of hard work and dedication by Marines and Iraqis, alike. I want this city to stop looking like it's under siege. This is a huge step toward the return to normalcy."
(U.S. Marine Cpl. Adam Johnston is a combat correspondent serving with Regimental Combat Team 2.)