American Forces Press Service
April 3, 2009 - U.S. and Iraqi soldiers here joined forces recently to conduct a census, distribute humanitarian supplies and build relations in two villages, military officials reported. Before the sun rose March 26, soldiers of 24th Infantry Regiment already were on the move, heading for the villages of Abu Bakr and Abu Awad, northwest of the Diyala provincial capital of Baqouba.
The soldiers, commanded by Army Capt. Matthew D. Mackey, were beginning Operation Legion Pursuit II in partnership with an Iraqi army brigade. The top three tasks of Legion Pursuit II were to project and sustain combined forces in the area, conduct a detailed census of the towns and to provide humanitarian assistance in order to bolster relations with local residents, Mackey said.
"To accomplish the first task is to project [Iraqi] and coalition forces combat power in the sector -- go out there with the people and stay out there for an extended period of time," Mackey said.
To complete the census, coalition and Iraqi forces moved from house to house using satellite images to help them understand the layout of the two villages. Overall, more than 422 buildings between the village of Abu Bakr and Abu Awad -- houses, animal pens and other standing structures -- were searched. The census included 150 families. Along the way, 26 caves were cleared, and four weapons caches were located and destroyed.
"As a squad leader, I would greet the village people, ask them their concerns, comments, if they're getting enough food and where they're getting their water from," Army Staff. Sgt. Ian H. Martinez said. "From there, I would write down their personal information -- who was the head of the household, how many males or females lived there, and how many children were there."
Early in the first day of the operation, the villagers were curious when the soldiers began moving from house to house, but by midday and into the second day, word had passed about the forces' intentions in the area, and the villagers began to open up to them.
"They have seen us patrolling before, but usually we were doing a quick pass," Mackey said. "I saw no hostility. Once they understood why we were there, they were very open and supportive. One woman said she was very happy we were working with the [Iraqi army], and she hoped that someday the IA could be at the level of coalition forces, which I think they are getting there."
After clearing both villages and the deep canyons caused by erosion leading to the river valley, the troops distributed food supplies in the villages.
(From a Multinational Division North news release.)