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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Joint patrols knocking on doors in Doura

Friday, 20 October 2006.
By Staff Sgt. Brent Williams
4th BCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div.

BAGHDAD — A loud knock on the door breaks the silence of the mosque and grabs the attention of its occupants. A representative of the local imam, his family members and associates standing behind him, greet the Iraqi National Policemen standing at their door.

After a brief introduction, the police officers from 6th Battalion, 2nd National Police Division file into the Islamic building used for prayer and worship.

The day’s mission has all but ended as the leaders of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment provide watch from across the street. At the request of the INP, and in respect for Iraqi culture, the Soldiers attached to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division will not be entering the mosque on this mission.

“The (INP) forces are doing most of the searching part of this cordon element, with my Soldiers providing oversight, assistance and expertise as necessary,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Butts, commander, 2nd Bn., 506th Inf. Regt., 101st Airborne Division, attached to 4th BCT, 4th Inf. Div. “Only Iraqi Security Forces will go in and search the mosque,” Butts said, observing the ISF scouring the roof of the mosque. “The NP want to go in and search it because they also feel it is more appropriate, especially during Ramadan. We are here in case there are any problems.”

Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers continue to conduct security operations, like this one, throughout Baghdad to provide a secure and stable environment for Iraq.

Baghdad’s Doura neighborhood has been plagued by terrorist elements, and the Soldiers operations completed in the area have become routine for ISF and MND-B Soldiers.

The Soldiers link-up with their Iraqi counterparts in the early morning hours. The IPs roll their vehicles into the march and prepare for the upcoming mission.

“Doura has been our main effort for the brigade and division,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Moss, 2nd Bn., 506th Inf. Reg. “Our whole goal is to give the Iraqi people the courage and confidence to actually defend themselves and enjoy life as a free people.”

The units move simultaneously and block off key entrances, isolating a small portion of the neighborhood, in this case, near the Doura Power Plant in southern Baghdad. The Soldiers and NP officers dismount and form their teams for conducting the intensive search operations that have affectionately earned the nickname, “a block party.”

The efforts of the ISF and MND-B Soldiers are helping the Iraqi government to stand up to the challenge of securing the nation’s capital, said Moss.

“One thing for the Iraqi people, them gaining trust in their Iraqi Police and National Police, will individually help us out because they know we are there for a purpose,” said Moss. “Eventually, the people are going to help us close out this war because we need them just as much as they need us.”

The area of responsibility assigned to the battalion is at times challenging for the “Renegade” Soldiers, who have been responsible for the Doura area for nearly a year. “Every day they go out,” Moss beamed, “they know they are going out for a purpose: to help the Iraqi people. Now our main effort is Doura, cleaning that bad boy out of insurgents, improvised-explosive devices and trash – anything that will help the Iraqi people stand-up and enjoy life like citizens.”

For Company A’s 2nd Lt. Terry Gambrel, 2nd Platoon leader, the military is doing all the right things – taking the fight to the enemy, creating a more confident and capable ISF and securing the Doura neighborhood for the Iraqi people.

“From the time we got here, we haven’t slowed down our (operation tempo), and if anything, towards the end, we have picked it up even more,” Gambrel said. “We have had a lot of big operations – Together Forward being the biggest. After we are done taking it to the enemy and aggressively securing an area, we can’t just go back to the forward operating base and say we are finished.”

While the brigade and battalion leadership works with local leaders in the area to control Doura, the Soldiers of “Easy Company” are witnessing a more self-reliant ISF, said Gambrel.

“These guys are good, and they have the ability to affect change,” said the former Special Forces Soldier about the Iraqis from the 6th Bn., 2nd NPD. “These guys are a more capable unit than what we have seen in the past.”

In less than four hours, the Soldiers sweep the neighborhood, thoroughly searching more than 140 homes and buildings – a task that would have taken longer, and with buildings such as the mosque, would have been virtually impossible without the presence of the INP.

The presence of the Iraqi Security Forces is measured and respected by both the Iraqi citizens in Doura and the MND-B Soldiers partnered in the cause. People open their doors and find comfort in the Iraqi soldiers working with the MND-B Soldiers, said Pfc. Jeremy Bailey, infantryman, Co. A, 2nd Bn., 506th Inf. Regt.

“It’s been a lot safer. A lot of people are really happy,” said Bailey, a native of Calhoun, Ga. “They feel a lot safer.”

Operation Together Forward was the toughest task for Bailey to date, who upon completing his basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., arrived to the unit eight weeks into the deployment.

“It was kind of rough because we were out there for 15 hours a day, and all we had time to do was come back for a couple hours of sleep and then it was up and back out there again,” Bailey remembered. “This is a tough job.”

Despite the long days, the hard work and the imminent danger, Bailey, who once took shrapnel in his face, said he wants to see his work and efforts affect more than a temporary change.

“Sometimes, I have my doubts, but I think it could be possible,” he explained. “I notice little changes. Now, I notice that they have a trash-cleaning crew out in sector, and people throw their garbage in a dump truck. It’s the little things like that we are seeing that are starting to help us out. I believe it is getting better.”

Bailey and Gambrel, as well as their leaders, attribute their recent successes to the dedication and the hard work of the ISF working to rebuild Baghdad.

Talk to the people in Doura – watch the NP, said Gambrel. They are accomplishing the security mission in Doura. The people will say that Doura is secure.

“We are doing exactly what I think we are supposed to be doing,” Gambrel said. “We want a more confident ISF, and that is what we are doing.

“Every target we hit, we take the ISF with us – the cordon and knock missions, everything we do – those guys are with us. If we run into some kind of problem, they come running. They are also out there patrolling themselves. That’s a huge leap from when we first arrived.”
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