By Army Spc. Tyler Lasure
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 27, 2009 - Moving several hundred detainees across Iraq is a daunting task, but for two Wisconsin Army National Guard companies, it's just another day on the job. The two companies -- Company A, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion, from Janesville, and Company C, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, from Fond du Lac, -- are responsible for transferring detainees from the camp here in southern Iraq to theater internment facilities farther north. These movements are part of the consolidation of internment facilities in Iraq and the eventual turnover of operations to the Iraqi government.
Once transferred, detainees will continue serving their sentences or be released.
"It's basically transferring the detainees from one base to another, so it [reduces] the footprint in the southeastern area of Iraq," said Army Capt. Anthony Klemme, commander of Company C, 2-127th Infantry, and a truck commander on the transfer missions. "The number of detainees in Iraq has dropped from an all-time high in the 20,000 range down to less than 12,000."
Alpha 132 is responsible for outprocessing detainees and delivering them to transport, while Charlie 127 provides convoy security.
Starting early each day, troops from Alpha Company ensure all goes smoothly by taking on tasks such as processing paperwork, feeding detainees, escorting them to latrines, providing water and quelling any problems that may arise.
The soldiers make sure the detainees are under control and that are treated with respect, said Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Masseur. "They follow the three C's: care, custody and control."
When the detainees are loaded onto buses at the end of the day, soldiers of Charlie Company take charge.
The desert sun already is setting when soldiers perform the last precombat checks on their mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, known as MRAPs. They shovel down a meal, load their weapons and roll out. It is going to be a long night, and everything needs to go right.
Charlie Company provides convoy security from the camp here to a military flightline. Soldiers must not only prepare for a convoy attack, but also be able to restore order if a disturbance erupts among the detainees.
The soldiers pull security duty until the plane reaches its destination safely. While they wait, soldiers stretch their legs, read, or take in the quiet of the desert night. This is an opportunity to peace and quiet in an often hectic environment.
As the sun rises over the desert the next morning, the soldiers return to camp and begin preparing for their next mission.
With a decreasing number of detainees held here, these soldiers essentially are working themselves out of a job, but Klemme sees other opportunities for his company after all the detainees are transferred. "I think once we're done with this mission, we will pick up other missions and help out with the other companies," he said.
Army Spc. Andrew Alexander, a gunner on one of Charlie Company's MRAPs, said he believes the mission is having an impact. "I find it rewarding that after we leave this country the people will have a sense of freedom."
(Army Spc. Tyler Lasure serves with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.)