By Sgt. Daniel D. Blottenberger, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 7, 2008 - Iraqi police expansion in Baghdad has reached an all-time high in the past six months, and with new recruits filling the ranks, police forces are improving by the day. As 18th Military Police Brigade police transition teams assess improvements with the numbers of Iraqi police officers and rule-of-law operations at the station level, the brigade's soldiers have begun a transition into a "systems approach" to move the Iraqi police headquarters to the next level of performance in securing the future of the Iraqi people.
Brigade officials call the new approach the enhanced police transition team.
The 18th MP Brigade's EPTT is composed of staff representatives from military police, logistics, communications and personnel leaders who focus on sustainment operations for the Iraqi police force in Baghdad.
"We are energizing the leadership to take responsibility and support their stations," said Army Lt. Col. Thomas Lombardo, the brigade's operations officer.
The brigade sends staff experts to the provincial Iraqi police leadership in Baghdad to support efforts in improving their sustainment systems. The new approach is under way not only at the main provincial headquarters, but also at other levels such as the criminal investigations department, provincial police patrol headquarters and traffic headquarters.
"We are sending individuals with the right skill sets to engage the proper IP sections," said Lombardo, who has deployed with the brigade to Baghdad twice.
The brigade is supporting Iraqi police logistics, personnel management, maintenance, budget, operations, training, leadership and judicial integration.
"You can have all these systems in place, but if you don't have good leadership, none of these things will work. Leadership makes things work," said Lombardo, who has worked directly with Iraqi police leaders in Baghdad since the unit deployed from Germany in October.
Lombardo said Iraqi police leaders are proactive and receptive to the new approach their coalition counterparts are using.
"The stations here in Baghdad are good," Lombardo said. "We can make them better if we can get the ... leadership to take responsibility of their stations and take charge."
Over the past month, the brigade staff has worked with all the provincial levels of leadership in Baghdad to understand the Iraqi police systems and see how the enhanced police transition team can help improve methods of operation. The brigade sent staff experts from each section of operations to the Iraqi police's higher echelons to learn and assess the Iraqi systems.
"Iraqi police have grown in numbers; now their systems need to grow to match their numbers," said Army 1st Lt. David Delong, a communications officer who visited the Iraqi police station's higher echelons in Baghdad recently to examine their communication systems.
"The Iraqi police were very happy to have someone who knows communications to come talk to them and lend some advice," Delong said.
He added that he was impressed with their knowledge of their communication systems, and they knew where they wanted to go with their systems.
Internet communication is important and vital for passing information among police stations and between the stations and headquarters in Baghdad, Delong said. During his visit, he noted problems in Internet connectivity among the police stations. "They are now trying to fix those problems with our help," he said.
The teams are helping distribute communication supplies from the Interior Ministry and set up contracts for Internet connectivity. They also are starting to train the more experienced communications personnel at the police stations so they can train other officers in using the communication equipment.
Army Master Sgt. Thomas Francis, the brigade's maintenance supervisor, recently spent several days observing the Iraqi police maintenance system at the central maintenance facility in Baghdad.
"The (Iraqi police) have a good system in place," said Francis, who has been working in maintenance facilities for 20 years. "The IP work (well) with what they have. They are very organized and have good accountability of their parts, which they often recycle to get the most out of their equipment."
The team plans on helping procure modern equipment for the Iraqi police mechanics and training programs. It's also providing ideas on how to spread mechanics out to the different organization levels to capitalize on their experience and round out the force.
"There are a lot of mechanics in training, and once they graduate, we will help them distribute the new mechanics to all levels in Baghdad," Francis said.
The new mechanics and equipment will help speed up the recovery process for damaged police cars, thus furthering mission capability, Francis explained.
The enhanced police transition team approach is in its initial stage, and brigade leaders believe the new systems approach is on track. "I feel confident that we are going in the right direction," Lombardo said.
The strategy, he added, is a foundation for the future success of the police in Baghdad.
"Enhanced PTT is a strategy to build on, and in the future, we will hand this off to future brigades to continue," he said. "This system helps us move to our end-state, in which (Iraqi police) move to enforce the rule of law independently."
(Army Sgt. Daniel D. Blottenberger serves in Multinational Corps Iraq Public Affairs with 18th Military Police Brigade.)