NEWS | April 9, 2008

Iraqi Army keeps peace in Mahmudiyah

By Kerensa Hardy Sgt. 1st Class, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division

Soldiers from the 25th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division prepare to engage criminals in the Mahmudiyah market March 30. U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Christopher McKenna, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT).
Soldiers from 25th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, prepare to engage criminals in the Mahmudiyah market March 30. (U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Christopher McKenna)

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq (April 8, 2008) — The Iraqi Army commander in Mahmudiyah won’t stand for criminal activity in his city.

To that end, Brig. Gen. Ali Jassim Muhammad Hassen Al Frejee, commander of the 25th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, and Lt. Col. William Zemp, commander of 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), worked together recently to make sure that violence seen in Basra wasn’t replicated in Mahmudiyah.

Zemp, a native of Hartsville, S.C., said one word sums up the IA successes in the area: leadership. The IA leadership at all levels – company, battalion and brigade – was involved in the mission to secure the city.

“As soon as there were indications of violence, a curfew was put into effect,” Zemp said. Vehicular traffic was suspended in the city, extra checkpoints were established and 14 additional platoons were deployed after hostilities flared March 28.

“(The criminals) were expecting us to only be defending,” Ali said. “That was true the first day.” After that, Ali said, his Soldiers started taking offensive measures. He said his troops believe it is their duty to pursue anyone who breaks the law.

Before the outbreak of violence, Ali said he brought in all the battalion commanders under his charge and assigned a neighborhood to each as their respective areas of operation. He said this hampered the enemy’s ability to function.

“We controlled with good cooperation between the Iraqi and Coalition forces,” Ali said. “I don’t think they will try these things again in this sector.”

Zemp agreed his IA counterparts did an outstanding job.

“The IA met its enemy and then crushed it; they defeated the special groups … in Mahmudiyah,” he said. “They did it in such a way that they took into consideration the civilian population and political ramifications and consequences of their actions. In a nutshell, they did it right.”

Rakkasan Soldiers assisted their IA partners with troop leading, logistics, artillery for terrain denials and aviation support. A platoon from 3-320th FA worked alongside each of the IA security platoons in all major engagements.

“They’re definitely pretty squared away,” said Pvt. Khristopher Wallace, Battery A, 3-320th FA, of the IA troops. “We’re moving, typically, behind them … pretty much in a support role.

“They’re tactically sound and keeping everything pretty simple,” the Yorkville, Ill., native added. “It’s just like working with another one of our units – very cohesive.”

Cooperation between the battalions and Coalition troops was key to success, according to Ali.

“Things are tense but stable now,” Zemp said. “The IA is clearly in control of the city as far as Mahmudiyah is concerned and the local government is still able to function.”

The vehicle curfew is currently in place at night but is lifted during daylight hours, allowing local citizens to run errands, go to work and receive medical care when necessary.

“I think the outcome defines his leadership,” Zemp said. “Swift action, decisive and the ability to interact with the local population based on intelligence, not rumors.”