War on Terrorism

Friday, March 20, 2009

On the Ground: U.S. Efforts Improve Detainee Care, Security in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

March 19, 2009 - U.S. forces in Iraq have put an emphasis on training in recent days, providing courses to Iraqis that encompass a wide range of operations that include detainee processing, mortar systems and the use of military working dogs. Forces also have continued ongoing humanitarian efforts by providing aid to detainees in facilities throughout Iraq and building two youth recreation centers in Baghdad.

Military police of 4th Infantry Division's Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, conducted detainee operations training for Iraqi soldiers March 11 at the 8th Iraqi Army Division's headquarters in Diwaniya province.

"The purpose of today's training was to provide the Iraqis with basic detainee operations training," said Army Staff Sgt. Robert Roady, Camp Echo's detainee control point noncommissioned officer in charge.

"With the change in the [U.S.-Iraqi security] agreement, the Iraqis now have the primary responsibility for handling detainees captured during military operations," he said. "My job is to train them to make sure they safely, securely and humanely handle all aspects of processing the detainees."

Learning the proper techniques for checking for hidden weapons and threats was especially helpful, Iraqi 1st Sgt. Sajad said. "This knowledge and practice will help to keep innocents and fellow soldiers safer when handling detainees," he said.

Along with detainee operations training, officials from the Iraqi Defense Ministry's human rights directorate, aided by coalition forces, are taking steps to improve the conditions in Iraq's detention centers.

In September 2007, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued Executive Order 207 to incorporate international human rights standards when dealing with detainees.

In response to the order, Iman Naji Taha, director of human rights for the Defense Ministry, initiated a humanitarian relief measure directed at reducing human suffering in the ministry's 30 facilities.

"Coordination of the Humanitarian Assistance Initiative began in December 2008, and we started distributing items in mid-February 2009," Taha said.

Eight of the largest facilities have received assistance through the program. "The humanitarian efforts of providing these much-needed supplies will improve the health and living conditions for approximately 1,700 detainees," Taha said.

Aided by Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, Multinational Force Iraq and Joint Contracting Command Iraq, Taha provided detainees with hygiene kits that included a toothbrush, toothpaste, towels and soap. The detainees also received sandals, blankets and mattresses.

Program officials also will provide information on detainee location to families and offer their assistance with scheduling visits.

In other developments, the first class of Iraqi soldiers graduated March 15 from a 60 mm mortar course at the regional training center in Habaniyah. A combined team of U.S. and Iraqi trainers taught the students how to implement and use the mortar system.

"Performance from the students was exceptional," Army Maj. Sean Fenton, senior advisor to the commander of the regional training center, said. "The highly motivated students demonstrated the willingness and ability to accept and understand all of the course material presented to them in a two-week period."

On Forward Operating Base Kalsu, soldiers of the 212th Military Police Detachment provided a military working dog demonstration March 15 for the Iraqi police K-9 unit commander from Hillah. Soldiers gave commands to their dogs, led them through an obstacle course and performed biting and explosives-detection exercises.

"The purpose of the training is to show the capabilities of the dogs and get the Iraqis used to training the dogs," Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Rodgers, Forward Operating Base Kalsu kennel master, said. "It gives them a goal to accomplish. They have seen the capabilities of the dogs so now they have something to work toward."

This visit was the first of many, Rodgers said. On their next visit, U.S. handlers will work with Iraqi handlers to teach them how to manage working dogs.

Meanwhile, construction is under way on two youth recreation facilities in the Shaab Hay neighborhood of northern Baghdad's Adhamiyah district.

"These buildings really help to alter the welfare of the entire community," said Inez Bergerson, project engineer for the Gulf Region Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq. USACE is providing oversight for the projects.

The Al Araby Club Youth Center will include a new parking lot and swimming pool. The $2.54 million project is slated for completion in August. The Al Jazera Gymnasium, a $1.16 million, 18,000-square-foot facility, is scheduled to be completed by the end of April.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq, Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, Multinational Division Center and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division news releases. Kendal Smith of the Gulf Region Division's Central District, Army Sgt. Debralee P. Crankshaw of Multinational Division Center, Army Sgt. Rodney Foliente of the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and Van N. Williams of the Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq public affairs office contributed to this article.)

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