By Army 1st Lt. Joseph Holliday
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 30, 2008 - Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers and Iraqi National Police officers share the stresses and successes of providing security and stability in Iraq as they work side by side every day to protect the people of Baghdad. Soldiers assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, work with national police officers in a number of capacities.
Patriot Brigade soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team frequently stop at police stations to check in on their Iraqi brothers in arms. This may seem like a small gesture, one soldier said, but the visits have positive repercussions.
"It is a morale boost for national policemen to see U.S. soldiers caring enough about them to stop in and talk when it would be easier after a long mission in 130-degree heat to just pass on by and go back to their air-conditioned rooms," Army Capt. Clint Brooks, Company D commander, said. "The NPs' living conditions are not nearly as comfortable as [those] of U.S. soldiers."
The soldiers often bring the police officers cool water or snacks to help them stay motivated on the job, Brooks said. The police officers are happy to return the favor, bringing U.S. soldiers drinks or local Iraqi food, such as bread, fruit or kebabs, he said. For the national police officers, this kind of relationship building puts a human face to American soldiers in uniform.
"It can be easy for an Iraqi, even an Iraqi national policeman, to look at a group of soldiers all wearing the same uniform, performing their jobs with the machine-like precision we pride ourselves on, and not think of them as human like them," Brooks said. "With these visits, U.S. soldiers not only get to know their Iraqi counterparts, but the Iraqi [policemen] get to know their counterparts, building the rapport essential to making their joint missions go smoothly."
The Iraqi National Police officers who share an operating environment with Company D soldiers are responsible for securing a traffic circle at an intersection of two major roads in Baghdad. At times, the soldiers join them at their positions around the traffic circle and in the vehicle-searching areas to help with security and search operations. The Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers say the national policemen do an admirable job at their checkpoint.
"You can't help but see their selfless devotion to make their country a better place for their people," said Army Pfc. Randy Hooper, a Company D soldier who hails from Willows, Calif. "Even though our common enemy threatens their lives every day, they still guard their checkpoint."
When U.S. soldiers join the policemen at the checkpoint, the effects extend beyond the relationship and cooperation between them. It also affects the way the populace looks at their national police.
"It shows the people of Iraq that their national police are working hard and being supported by the most powerful fighting force in the world -- the U.S. Army," Brooks said. "The competence and credibility of the U.S. Army, known worldwide, is transferred to the NPs by working together [and] building the people's confidence and trust in their national police.
"Showing this combined presence at such a highly trafficked area," he continued, "lets our common enemy know that if you try to test either force individually, we will answer together."
On many of their combined missions, the national police lead the way and U.S. soldiers play a supporting role, Brooks explained. National police officers conduct their part of the mission with a speed and precision that sometimes is hard for American soldiers to achieve because of their reliance on interpreters, he said.
"They are getting better every mission that we do together, and they are very helpful," Army Spc. Urban Jones, a dismounted squad leader from Miami, said.
After working with national police officers for several months, the soldiers of Company D have watched them become a more effective fighting force, Jones said.
The soldiers are thankful their hard work is paying dividends, and they look forward to the day national police conduct their missions without any outside support, because building Iraqi security forces and handing over to them the responsibility of securing their country is the best exit strategy, Jones said.
(Army 1st Lt. Joseph Holliday serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment Public Affairs Office.)