May 12, 2008 —
Specialist Joseph Fluty, 511th MP Co., of Fort Drum, N.Y., maintains security as Iraqi Policemen search vehicles at a checkpoint in al-Kut, Iraq, May 7. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel T. West)
FOB DELTA (May 12, 2008) — Iraqi Police in Wasit Province have made significant capacity gains in recent months to improve security for the citizens of Iraq.
Their planning ability has greatly improved and their effectiveness increases daily, said Col. Peter Baker, commander of the 214th Fires Brigade.
Much of the improvement is due to the actions of Maj. Gen. Hannin al-Ameer, the provincial director of police, appointed in September.
“He is very competent,” Baker said. “He has taken a large force and made immediate and long-term improvements – not an easy task for a unit of that size.”
One significant turning point for the force happened during the late-March Shia uprising: the firing of 134 Iraqi Policemen – both troopers and officers – from IP Emergency Response Unit 4, said 1st Lt. Lynette Jefferson, a platoon leader for the 511th Military Police Company, attached to the 214th FB, of Fort Drum, N.Y., the unit responsible for training Iraqi Policemen.
“It was due to a variety of circumstances,” she said. “Some had militia ties, some weren’t coming to work and some just weren’t doing their jobs.”
“The flare-up in early March was an opportunity for [Hannin] to assess the quality of his forces,” Baker said. “It had a huge positive effect on the force.” The leadership of the unit was changed as well, not because of corruption, but to improve the unit, Jefferson said.
“The current leadership is more disciplined and training-focused,” she said. “They’re taking their jobs more seriously.”
The change in leadership at ERU 4 has trickled down to change the attitudes of the police officers on the ground, as well, said Sgt. Melissa Overton, a squad leader with the 511th MP Co.
“They seem more disciplined in training with us,” she said. “They want to learn better skills.”
They are also more open to conducting joint patrols with Coalition forces, she added.
“Before [the firings], it was ‘yes, but not today,’” she said. “Now, it’s ‘how many do you need, we’ll go now.’”
One example of this new spirit became evident during an operation in the Zuwarijat district of al-Kut, 163 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, April 26. Iraqi Police, in support of Iraqi Army elements and Coalition forces, entered the neighborhood and established a permanent joint presence with the IA – something the Iraqi Security Forces had been unable to do before.
“When they went there [Zuwarijat] before [March 4], they had no plans or means to stay,” Baker said. “This time they planned to go in and stay. It’s had a huge effect on the population.
“Now when we go in, people ask if we will stay,” he said. “The reinforcements and improvements that we have made are a sign.”“Overall, I know that taking ground, it was a huge step,” said Staff Sgt. Erik Golden, a squad leader with the 511th MP Co.
The company’s mission has been to train IP on the ground in their stations around al-Kut. The close relationship they have developed definitely helps all those involved, Golden said.
“They’re more willing to learn, and we’re willing to teach,” he said. “We are working on a train-the-trainer program, so that Iraqi Policemen can do the training at the stations as the Americans supervise.”
Baker praised the work of the 511th MP Co. with the IP in Wasit.
“Much of what they do has a direct result on the Iraqi Police, and that translates into better security,” he said.