By Army 1st Lt. Christopher T. Taylor
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 15, 2008 - Soldiers from the 6th Iraqi Army Division's Company C, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Brigade, conducted a humanitarian assistance drop in the northwestern Baghdad neighborhood of Shulla with Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers Sept. 10. Iraqi and coalition forces have conducted numerous humanitarian assistance drops throughout Shulla, but this one was unique because it was planned and executed by the Iraqi Army with minimal coalition oversight, officials said.
Army Staff Sgt. Perry Transue stood watching while his platoon -- 1st Platoon from the 101st Airborne Division's Company B, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, pulled security duty for the Iraqi soldiers.
"It is crazy to think that just a few months ago this place was completely off-limits to coalition and Iraqi forces," Transue said. "If you had asked me a few months ago if I'd be standing in the streets of Shulla watching the IA conducting operations this soon after the hostilities, I would have said, 'No.'"
Their tenacity and discipline during the hostilities in March instilled confidence in the Iraqi Army in Shulla, Transue said. The Iraqi soldiers fought off heavy enemy fire in Shulla from illegal Iranian-backed militias in March, which tested their abilities as a true fighting force. The Iraqi army held off the enemy push and held decisive checkpoints to keep the enemy from advancing. Since then, they've prevented the enemy from regaining influence in the area.
The Iraqi security forces have discovered the importance in winning over the trust and respect of the people, Transue said.
"It is great to be given the opportunity to supply all these people with food, but this is just a small sample of the things [the Iraqi Army wants] to accomplish here in Shulla," said Maj. Muhammad, the Iraqi battalion's operations officer. "We still need to clean the streets of trash, repair the streets, and provide better medical services to the residents of Shulla."
Muhammad said he is optimistic about the future relationship between his battalion and the local people in Shulla. He said he is driven and that he believes he and his soldiers will make a difference with their continued effort.
"People are beginning to see the strength of the Iraqi army," he said. "The people see that we are beginning to conduct operations on our own, without the help of coalition forces. Residents of Shulla no longer hesitate to bring issues to us, because they realize we are capable of providing security for them."
The humanitarian assistance drop was a well organized event, as the Iraqi soldiers separated men and women into different lines and alternated giving packages to each line. They were deliberate and showed no favoritism to any person or family, Transue said.
"Their organizational skills and tactical expertise has dramatically increased since we arrived in November 2007," he said. "This HA drop was very well organized compared to previous operations we conducted earlier in the deployment. The Iraqi Army organized the HA drop efficiently, and effectively completed the mission."
The Iraqi army planned and executed the vast majority of the mission, he emphasized. All the coalition forces needed to do was to help in providing security.
"The rest of the operation was done by the IA," he said. "It is nice to see that the Iraqi Army is beginning to conduct operations the way they are supposed to be done. They put thought into the operation, and are genuinely concerned about the outcome. They know the future of the Iraqi army relies heavily on how the people perceive them."
(Army 1st Lt. Christopher T. Taylor serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division's Company B, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.)