War on Terrorism

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Police Transition Teams Start From Scratch in Basra

By Army Sgt. Daniel Blottenberger
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 29, 2008 - Combat Outpost Perry here houses elements of the U.S. Army's 21st Military Police Company, the first U.S. military police unit in the area. The unit, which is primarily based out of nearby Contingency Operating Base Basra, is deployed to provide assessments, assistance, training and mentoring to the Basra police force.

Although the unit could have been based solely out of the contingency operating base, the soldiers at the outpost said they felt a need to be closer to the citizens of Basra and their Iraqi police counterparts.

"By being closer to the IP and the people we will be able to spend more time coaching the IP of the city," said Army 1st Lt. Steve Caldwell, a platoon leader. "Working at the COP, we now have less traveling time spent on the roads to get to the IP stations we work with. The majority of our tips on enemy activities are given to us or to the IP by civilians, and being in the city gives us a quicker response time to react to those tips."

For example, Caldwell said, while conducting daily operations at the collocated Hussein District headquarters Oct. 25, the police transition team was able to test its quick-reaction capability after a report from the Iraqi police district headquarters that an officer from the nearby Jehad police station had found six rockets in a field. The PTT was able to respond quickly and examine the site where the rockets were found, he said.

In addition to incident management, Caldwell said, working from Combat Outpost Perry keeps the 21st MPs closer to the Iraqi police organizations they work with in the area.

Although the coalition forces are in the beginning phase of police development in Basra, 21st MP Company officials said, the Iraqi police have done a lot on their own, because they want to do their jobs responsibly while protecting their neighbors.

An emergency police battalion was formed in May, after criminal uprisings in Basra. Since then, the battalion has exhibited great progress while providing law and order for the people of Basra, officials said.

"[The Iraqi police] are really motivated, and they are doing the right things when they are out in the communities," said Army 1st Lt. James Webb, a police transition team chief. The goal for the PTT, he said, is to help in coaching the police to become the primary Iraqi security force in Basra, a transition plan similar to that being used in Baghdad.

"Eventually, we plan for the IP force here to expand and the Iraqi army to move out of the city," he said.

(Army Sgt. Daniel Blottenberger serves in the Multinational Corps Iraq Public Affairs Office.)

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