By Pfc. April Campbell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 20, 2008 - Citizens in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Qahira play a large role in securing their backyard through local checkpoints. Army Lt. Col. Michael Pemrick, deputy commander of the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team in Multinational Division Baghdad, said these "Sons of Iraq" forces are one of the key elements in the recent reduction of violence in the area.
Without the Sons of Iraq, the area would have more attacks on coalition and Iraqi forces and civilians by al Qaeda in Iraq and Iranian-trained and –funded 'special groups,' Pemrick said.
Pemrick stopped to visit with several Sons of Iraq at their checkpoints during a patrol here Feb. 14.
"The guys were alert," he said. "They had weapons; they had ammunition; they understood what their purpose was."
Pemrick also noted the protection level of the checkpoints as a marked improvement.
Mohamad Imad Shehab, a member of the neighborhood Sons of Iraq group working at one of the checkpoints, appeared confident his efforts were helping his community.
"I do feel that I am contributing to the neighborhood," Mohamad said through an interpreter. "I am doing my part to keep this place safe."
While the Sons of Iraq are an effective force, they ideally will be incorporated into and trained as official members of the Iraqi security forces, Pemrick said. "The idea is that these guys would eventually transition to become Iraqi police officer and work in the local communities where they are from to increase not only the manpower of the Iraqi police, but also their local presence and credibility, since it'll be local men that are actually policing the communities," he explained.
Because of the experience he gains as a Sons of Iraq member and his prior experience in the Iraqi army, Mohamad said, he hopes to be accepted into one of the Iraqi security forces.
Ultimately, the transition of the Sons of Iraq into the nation's security forces is the responsibility of the Iraqi government. "The Iraqi police and the Iraqi government are the ones who are making this happen," Pemrick said.
(Army Pfc. April Campbell serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team.)