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CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq — They dealt with the worst of times out west, witnessed and helped with a stunning turnaround in the volatile region and were among the troops told they’d have to stick around three months longer than planned.

Through it all, the 92nd Military Police Battalion’s soldiers never got discouraged, its leaders said.

The unit is headed back to Fort Benning, Ga., after recently transferring authority for its mission in west Baghdad and Anbar province to the 716th Military Police Battalion out of Fort Campbell, Ky.

The coverage area extends north to Taji and west to Ramadi and Fallujah, where the 92nd often supported Marine operations. At its peak in Iraq, the battalion had almost 2,200 soldiers and managed 11 units.

“Things were not that good when we first got here, to say the least,” said Col. Leonard Cosby, 44, of Canton, Miss., the 92nd Military Police Battalion commander. “Over time, it got progressively worse as far as deaths and incidents. We basically were in the middle of all that as we struggled to conduct our [police transition team] missions. It was particularly rough.”

In 15 months, the battalion lost eight soldiers in combat and another seven to nonbattle-related injuries. More than 70 were wounded in action.

But fear or motivation never became issues, said 92nd Military Police Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Dawson.

“They weren’t afraid,” said Dawson, 42, of Harlem in New York City. “You could look in their eyes and see the courage and determination. They always showed resolve to make sure the mission got done. I stand in awe of these soldiers.”

Some were among the initial responders to last April’s truck bombing of the Iraqi police district headquarters in Rasheed. The blast killed nearly 20 officers and wounded dozens more.

“Probably the most devastating attack we had on an IP station in our time here,” Cosby said. “It almost completely destroyed the headquarters. None of our people were there, but we reacted to it. They literally scraped IPs off the walls after that one. Stuff like that sticks in your mind.”

The headquarters was rebuilt but the notorious Rasheed area remains a concern, he added.

Dawson said tasks in Iraq are monumental and difficult at best for soldiers.

“We ask more of soldiers today than we have at any point in our history,” he added. “They continue to serve with distinction. It has to be difficult on them and their families, yet they do it with utmost honor.”

An upturn in west Baghdad and Anbar province resulted in part due to the military’s “surge” last summer.

“From our perspective, it’s been a 180-degree turnaround,” Cosby said. “It’s head and shoulders better than what it was.

“We’ve seen it at its worst. Now we’ve seen the improvement. Hopefully, it’s that irreversible momentum we talk about.”

Cosby said expansion of Iraqi police stations, robust recruitment within them, and stronger coordination between law enforcement and the Iraqi army all are signs of progress. Iraqi police, in particular, now command more respect within local communities, he said.

The 92nd came to Iraq on a yearlong deployment but found out later it was being lengthened to 15 months.

“I’m proud of the way our soldiers handled the extension,” Cosby said. “They didn’t miss a beat and took everything in stride. They did an exceptional job supporting our units. … They were professional throughout what was a very long tour, because it was not easy.”


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