By Army Sgt. Doug Roles
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 6, 2009 - Pennsylvania Army National Guard soldiers and their Iraqi counterparts have been hitting the streets to maintain security in Taji Market, one of the busiest sectors of the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team's area of operations, north of Baghdad. The market is a lynchpin in the security effort because it's where the lives of locals intertwine.
"Being the main market area, that's the economy," Army 1st Lt. Joshua Fox, a platoon leader with Company C, 1st Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, said following a May 4 patrol through the market. "Everybody in the area is linked to the market. They work there or they buy there."
The market is in the area of operations of Guard soldiers stationed at Joint Security Station Hor Al Bosh. Patrolling soldiers regularly talk to shopkeepers, and Iraqi security forces man checkpoints. Fox said his soldiers incorporate as many Iraqi police officers as are available on a given day into their patrols.
Army Staff Sgt. Corey Bukousky said his soldiers know the market "like the back of their hand." He and Fox said soldiers on patrol always are on the lookout for signs of security threats.
"It's one of those places that could turn into a bad place," Bukousky said. "That is one particular place where something could happen very easily."
The company conducts an "above average" number of missions, Bukousky said, adding that leaders also consider wear and tear on soldiers in their planning.
"We do a lot of localized patrols," said Fox, whose soldiers put in many hours each day patrolling the area. "We're still infantry; that's how we operate. To defeat the enemy, you have to beat the streets."
During missions like the one in Taji Market, the infantry soldiers use their Stryker vehicles for overwatch and for screening of dismounted patrols and resupply, as well as for the possibility of casualty evacuation.
"Strykers are an extremely useful platform," Fox said. "It's definitely a great asset."
Prior to the May 4 movement through the market, soldiers participating in the patrol pulled security at the Iraqi police station in Taji as company leaders met briefly with a local leader. Bukousky said his soldiers see that assignment as a necessary, albeit sometimes boring, task.
"We know and everybody knows the meetings [with local leaders] are a good thing," Bukousky said. "We're there for security. That mission's not a big favorite, but we understand its importance."
(Army Sgt. Doug Roles serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team.)