By Army Pvt. Christopher McKenna
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 17, 2008 - Iraqi soldiers and coalition forces conducted an air assault census mission named "Operation New Town" in Shakriyah, Iraq, June 10. The 4th Company, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, company commander also participated in the air assault mission to get a first-hand perspective on what his soldiers will be doing in the near future.
"I was very impressed," Iraqi army Maj. Ahmed Hassan said. "The coalition soldiers were treating the people with respect and helping form a tighter bond with the people we are all responsible for. Everything went as expected."
Combined with Iraqi army leadership, the census operation circulated through five groups of houses throughout the Shakriyah area, 18 kilometers southwest of Baghdad. During census operations, photos of all military-age males are taken and weapons in households are counted. The Iraqi army retains all this information.
"This was a learning experience for both of us," said Army Capt. Eric Morton, a native of Richmond, Va., and commander of Company B, 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment. "We hadn't been to the area since we arrived a month ago. The whole goal for us since we arrived is involving ourselves in census operations to get to know the people in the areas we represent."
Hassan had his soldiers providing security and controlling the roads while he and one of his lieutenants joined the 1-35th soldiers on the air assault.
"We didn't know much about what an air assault was prior to the mission; this was the first time I have ever even been in a helicopter," Hassan said. "We were briefed the morning of execution and went along with the coalition soldiers, helping them complete the mission."
The Iraqi army soldiers' performance impressed their coalition counterparts.
"The IA performed well, searching vehicles and providing security over the area," said U.S. Army Spc. Carl Moore, a native of Sedalia, Mo. "We didn't have any issues with vehicles or people passing through the area during the mission."
Coalition forces did the planning for Operation New Town, enabling the Iraqi army to gain valuable experience and positive expectations on future operations.
"In the future, the IA will be more involved with the pre-mission planning," Morton said.
The Iraqi people are much more responsive when the Iraqi army is involved, as it eases communications and builds positive relationships, Morton said. He added that the positive response from the people seen during the mission made things run properly.
"The people we spoke with were treated very well by the coalition," Hassan said. "They know us and we know them, so it made it completely possible to get all the information we needed."
(Army Pvt. Christopher McKenna serves with the 101st Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)