By Army Sgt. Joshua Risner
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 23, 2009 - As sunlight faded in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, 1st Cavalry Division soldiers of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, along with soldiers of the 42nd Iraqi Army Division, moved down streets lined with houses in an effort to keep the city safer. "We're essentially trying to hit target houses and known bed-down locations of bad guys," said Greensboro, Ga., native Army 1st Lt. Mark Reinke, a platoon leader with Charlie Company.
The soldiers knocked on doors and entered with the permission of the inhabitants to look for contraband, intelligence and people of interest.
"We ... try to get all the weapons out of the area, because [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] said that no weapons are allowed in Sadr City," Reinke said. "So by taking the weapons, we're trying to keep the streets safer."
Taking weapons off the streets has more value to security than just keeping them out of insurgents' hands, Reinke explained. "In the past, we've had family feuds spill onto the streets, which sometimes involved shooting," he said.
The search yielded some promising leads and positive results.
"We found a photo album with pictures we believe to be of a bad guy we are looking for," he said. "Now we have his picture, so maybe we can get a better positive ID of him. We also found a weapon on a guy who claimed to be an Iraqi policeman, who is believed to be working with a target we are trying to find, so we're using that to help build a case."
The searches also have positive effects on the community, Reinke said. "We provide a presence both night and day in the area to hopefully deter anybody from doing something they would really regret in the future," he said.
Soldiers of 2-5th Cavalry, most of whom are tankers by trade, have largely abandoned their tanks in favor of using mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles and their feet to get them where they need to go.
"These guys are tankers, but to operate in these conditions, you have to be on the ground, and that's what they do," Army 1st Sgt. Glenn Aldrich, from Houston, said. "I've been in the Army for 21 years, and I've never had a group of soldiers as good as the ones I have right now, ... to be doing what they're doing the way they're doing it."
For the troops of C Company, the missions in Sadr City may not be the kind they are accustomed to, but they take to it with determination and excellence, Army Spc. Jimmy Howard, a Dallas native, said.
"We, and pretty much all combat-arms soldiers, are doing the job of an infantryman and a [military policeman], because that's what the mission requires," he said. "Whatever it takes to get the mission done, we'll do it."
The sun had set as C Company troops made it back to Joint Security Station Comanche, their home away from home in the Iraqi urban jungle. They were sweaty and tired, but they had accomplished their mission for the day and prepared to get some sleep for the next opportunity to keep their sector safe.
(Army Sgt. Joshua Risner serves in the Multinational Division Baghdad public affairs office.)