American Forces Press Service
Feb. 26, 2009 - When approaching the border with Iran in Iraq's Diyala province, travelers find a distinct lack of fences, signs or any other landmark letting them know that the border is near. Often the only way of knowing the border is near is by noticing one of the 100 or so checkpoints varying in distances along the imaginary line that delineates the border. Each one of these checkpoints is manned by Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement personnel who stand ready to detain anyone trying to cross over from Iran into Iraq illegally.
Working alongside Iraq's border security officials is the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division's Border Transition Team 4312, which assists in keeping the borders safe and secure.
"Our job is to track, confirm or deny illegal border access," Army Master Sgt. Michael Henle, a team sergeant with BTT 4312, said. "We strictly work with the Iraqi [DBE], but we try to integrate the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police into the systems so they can work hand-in-hand, instead of operating unilaterally."
The U.S. government's first efforts in border control date as early as 1904 when border patrolmen were called mounted watchmen. The men who patrolled then prevented illegal crossings, just as patrolmen do now. But the dangers of the job were not the same then as they are today.
"A lot of our missions resemble U.S. border patrol missions," Army Capt. Eric Wagoner of BTT 4312 said. "There's no way to block off a border -- you're more of a deterrent. You can't put the fence up and expect everyone to stop coming across. Our job is to make sure the Iraqi [DBE] has good methods to sustain their deterrence."
Wagoner said they work with the DBE to force the movement of those illegally crossing the border to locations where it is easier to catch them. Part of their objective is to have DBE and BTT members train together, he said.
"We train our Iraqi counterparts," Wagoner said. "Even though they are very good at training themselves on their border tasks, they do not have the resources ... the experience in certain areas. Those are the [areas] we are trying to train them in."
Success of each mission is not just dependent upon the DBE, but also upon the locals living in the area.
"Border villagers are the guys who live right there and see everything," Wagoner said. "When we go talk to the people, we want the Iraqi [DBE] to do it because we want to make sure the local people know that the Iraqi [DBE] is a legitimate force in the area and that they are recognized."
(From a Multinational Division North news release.)