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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pushing the bad guys out

from Multi-National Force Iraq:

East of Ramadi, an Iraqi Policeman marches through a field in Abu Bali during a sweep for insurgents in clearance missions.
Photo taken by U.S. Army Spc. Ricardo Branch 1st BCT Public Affairs.

Thursday, 27 September 2007
BAGHDAD — A year ago the area to the east of Ramadi was a haven for insurgents who attacked the city. These days much has changed in the surrounding rural lands of the east.

The once violent lands of the east are patrolled and guarded by the Abu-Bali Iraqi Police (IP) and Soldiers from Company A, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment. Their latest mission was a joint operation, which gathered intelligence and pushed insurgents further from the city of Ramadi and its outlying towns.

“Today, we did routine clearance missions east of Ramadi,” said 1st Lt. Cory Sharbo, a platoon leader with Co. A, 3-69 Armor. “Normally we work alongside the IP, but today we’re only here to supervise.”

Sharbo, 25, from Pittsburgh, Pa., said that the area they patrol is much different than what people at home would normally expect when they think of Iraq.

“Everyone always thinks that it’s all desert,” Sharbo said. “Lots of the Soldiers look at this area we’re in with an almost Vietnam-style terrain with canals, tall grass and sweltering heat.”

During the operation, IPs scoured the surrounding countryside of Abu Waitha and began walking through neighborhoods greeting locals and asking if they needed any assistance. While they were meeting the locals, the IPs asked about terrorist activity in the area.

Sharbo said the mission was important because it served as a show of force for the IPs.

“Since we came into this area, the IP have shown lots of improvement,” he said. “They are more organized, able to do handle the different tasks required of a policeman and now handle detainees real well – they are running the show here.”

Although there is often much work associated with the IP, the Soldiers said, they don’t have much work left in order for the IP to be self-sufficient.

“Part of our duty here, outside of combat operations, is to make sure the IPs are getting paid, they are receiving fuel, and they are receiving equipment,” Sharbo said. “Right now we’re helping supply them, but it’s not a permanent thing. We are still setting them up to sustain themselves and when we leave we’re going to make sure they can support themselves.”
Although the mission failed to turn up any insurgents, the IP and Coalition forces considered their work that evening a success.

“The mission today helped a lot to cement the local support for the police and Coalition force efforts here,” Sharbo said. “The insurgents closed off all the business here and people were prisoners in their own homes. Now people can come and go as they please.”

For the Soldiers working in Abu Bali, serving with the Iraqi Security Forces and seeing the effects of their combined efforts on the people is a good feeling.

“Most of the success here is from the Iraqi Police,” said Spc. Dustin Dunckel, an infantryman with Co. A, 3-69 Armor. “They are from this area, and know the people and the land. By us building up a strong police force here, we’ve established a confidence among the IPs and the people.”

The missions the troops conduct with the Iraqi Security Forces are a far cry from the combat the troops experienced less than six months ago.

“When we first got here there were lots of improvised explosive devices, sniper and mortar fire here,” said the 26-year-old, Lansing, Mich., native. Dunckel added, “Working with the Iraqi Security Forces and patrolling the area has made this place safer now. The groups here are proud and stern Iraqis who I can trust to do their job well.”

(Story by U.S. Army Spc. Ricardo Branch, 1st BCT Public Affairs)

In other recent developments here:
Coalition airpower supported Coalition ground forces in Iraq and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in the following operations Tuesday, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

Task Force Marne AH-64 Apache helicopters responded to an improvised explosive device strike Monday, killing the four extremist militants responsible.

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