Subscribe
Lt. Col. Erik Kurilla, right, speaks to the resident of a house during a cordon-and-knock mission in Mosul, Iraq. For the mission, U.S. and Iraqi forces systematically check out a neighborhood looking for enemy forces or illegal weapons, but do so without building animosity. “Rather than kick the door and make everybody upset, we knock and ask permission to come in,” says Capt. Matthew McGrew.

Lt. Col. Erik Kurilla, right, speaks to the resident of a house during a cordon-and-knock mission in Mosul, Iraq. For the mission, U.S. and Iraqi forces systematically check out a neighborhood looking for enemy forces or illegal weapons, but do so without building animosity. “Rather than kick the door and make everybody upset, we knock and ask permission to come in,” says Capt. Matthew McGrew. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

Lt. Col. Erik Kurilla, right, speaks to the resident of a house during a cordon-and-knock mission in Mosul, Iraq. For the mission, U.S. and Iraqi forces systematically check out a neighborhood looking for enemy forces or illegal weapons, but do so without building animosity. “Rather than kick the door and make everybody upset, we knock and ask permission to come in,” says Capt. Matthew McGrew.

Lt. Col. Erik Kurilla, right, speaks to the resident of a house during a cordon-and-knock mission in Mosul, Iraq. For the mission, U.S. and Iraqi forces systematically check out a neighborhood looking for enemy forces or illegal weapons, but do so without building animosity. “Rather than kick the door and make everybody upset, we knock and ask permission to come in,” says Capt. Matthew McGrew. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

An Iraqi National Guard soldier speaks to a resident in his home during an early-morning mission. The first face a resident sees during a cordon-and-knock mission is always an Iraqi National Guard soldier. Facing insurgents who are increasingly tagerting Iraqi forces, the Iraqi soldiers wear scarves to conceal their identity.

An Iraqi National Guard soldier speaks to a resident in his home during an early-morning mission. The first face a resident sees during a cordon-and-knock mission is always an Iraqi National Guard soldier. Facing insurgents who are increasingly tagerting Iraqi forces, the Iraqi soldiers wear scarves to conceal their identity. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

MOSUL, Iraq — Before the first streaks of dawn break through the sky, teams of U.S. and Iraqi forces systematically trickle through a neighborhood on a “cordon-and-knock” mission.

They rap on each door, check inside for weapons or explosives and pass out leaflets asking for help finding terrorists. They’re hoping to flush out lurking enemy forces, but a critical part of the mission is more proactive. It lets residents get to know coalition forces.

Unlike a raid, a “knock” operation is meant to stay tranquil. Soldiers don’t break down doors; they work to earn the locals’ respect.

“Rather than kick the door and make everybody upset, we knock and ask permission to come in,” says Capt. Matthew McGrew, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander and liaison with the Iraqi guardsmen. “That being said, we are checking every house.”

The missions also are meant bolster support for the burgeoning Iraqi National Guard. An Iraqi guardsman will be the first person the homeowners see when they open their doors.

“The key is you want to get that Iraqi face forward,” Lt. Col. Erik Kurilla, commander of the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), 25th Infantry Division (Light), tells the unit leaders before they move out for a recent mission.

Shortly after 4 a.m., soldiers load into their Strykers and roll across the city to the targeted neighborhood. One group secures a perimeter around the affluent neighborhood. Another starts working its way from door to door.

Insurgents have launched mortars from the neighborhood before, gunning for Iraqi guardsmen. Locals tell the U.S. soldiers that the insurgents drive in, launch the mortars, then scatter.

Despite the Army’s goal of making friends in the neighborhood, the residents are uneasy about the soldiers’ early morning visit. But they seem eager to keep enemy forces out. As soldiers leave one home, a woman and several children huddled in a side room offer a thumbs up and a smile.

“I think they’re so used to the American and coalition presence,” Kurilla says. “They’re used to the knock at the door.”

The three-hour mission turns out peaceful. There is no small-arms fire or explosives. Soldiers find some grenades, make one arrest and begin identifying residents who might offer future intelligence.

“Every once in a while someone will give us a good lead,” McGrew says.

It’s also another step in preparing Iraqi forces for the United States’ eventual departure. But the Iraqi guardsmen still have plenty of training to do. Insurgents are already targeting them, even though the guardsmen wear scarves to hide their identities. For two nights before the cordon and knock, ING soldiers were injured engaging the enemy.

“They’re threatening their families, but they still come back to work,” McGrew says. “They want to do their jobs.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now