A U.S. Marine gives an Iraqi child a high-five during a patrol through Fallujah.
FALLUJAH (June 23, 2008) — Marines geared for war walk in tactical columns through the once mean streets of Fallujah, ready for what may lie around the next corner.
“Mister, mister shokalata! Shokalata!”shout exuberant children from a crowded neighborhood as Marines and Iraqi police pass out candy.
Marines with Company B, Police Transition Team 8, Regimental Combat Team 1, have been working diligently over the past few months to help train Iraqi police to take over their respective areas and become self-supportive in day-to-day operations in the city.
Recent increases in the number of Iraqi police have drastically subdued the violence in the city.
According to the Fallujah headquarters Chief of Police Col. Faisal, the number of Iraqi policemen has increased this year by more than 1,000 officers, and that is why security is better than it has been in four years.
“These guys are going out on a daily basis by themselves and coming back with suspect arrests,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew L. Walker, a 20-year-old police transition team member from Crane Hill, Ala. “For the most part, they are doing a really good job with many of the issues going on here.”
Marines with the transition team spend time mentoring Iraqi police and work with them to control the Mauallimeen area. Joint patrols in the city work to strengthen relationships with the IPs and Marines, and offer Marines a chance to evaluate how the police operate in various situations.
Team members work with the IPs and teach them specific weapons skills and how to handle their issued pistols and AK-47 assault rifles safely. Lessons are given on a weekly basis inside classrooms at police headquarters, which teach IPs fundamentals of marksmanship and how to function together as a team.
“The IPs are well trained in individual actions and capable of planning and conducting their own operations,” said Sgt. Stan C. Theisen, a 28-year-old platoon sergeant from Warren, Mich. “When we go on patrol, the IPs function the same a way a Marine Corps rifleman would.”
Iraqi Police are now fully functional 24-hours a day and remain alert for any situation that could arise in the city. The communication between local citizens and the IPs have allowed the IPs to regain control of many neighborhoods in the Fallujah area.
Many areas have bulletins posted on buildings and street corners that have the contact numbers for IP stations. Phones at Fallujah stations remain busy, as locals report suspicious activities to officials.
“We have made significant progress over the past few years, but there is still a lot of room for improvement to be made,” said Theisen. “The IPs still need work on learning that they have a chain of command and how to use small unit leadership.”Police facilities at headquarters district now have commodities such as air-conditioning and electricity, as well as newly-built structural amendments that have given IPs a safer place to work.
Police use their own vehicles to patrol streets and check for unusual activities reported by civilians on a nearly daily basis. This month, 23 more vehicles have been put into operations to help strengthen security on the streets.
“We hope to one day see the Iraqis training themselves, instead of them relying on us for their training,” said Maj. Eric P. Dominijanni, police transition team leader, 35, and native to Forest Hills, N.Y.
Every day, new steps are being taken towards progress in the city. With the coalition forces’ guidance, the Iraq police are ensuring the safety of its community, and in hopes of one day becoming stand-alone, bringing Fallujah back to a state of normalcy.