U.S. troops help locals get used to Iraqi forces
January 27, 2005
RAMADI, Iraq — Even though their focus is on the Iraqi election just days away, U.S. soldiers continue mixing other essential tasks into their daily missions.
In Ramadi, one of the important jobs at hand is introducing residents to the Iraqi forces that might soon be responsible for security in the city, which continues to see almost-daily attacks by insurgents.
“We want to introduce you to the Iraqi forces who will be working with us and hopefully staying here after we leave,” 2nd Lt. Tad Tsuneyoshi, of Company C, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry, told one family Tuesday, gesturing to a group of Iraqi Special Police Commandos.
“We know the black masks are different,” said Tsuneyoshi, a 23-year-old from Honolulu, referring to the ski masks worn by some members of the Iraqi force so insurgents cannot identify them or attack them when they are off duty. “But they are professionals. And they are working with us to bring security.”
The patrol visited several residential blocks and a local mosque, mixing their security message with election information handouts — and the occasional warning.
When the soldiers entered one compound, a man sprinted out the back and tried to run away. Soldiers quickly tracked him down and brought him back to the house. The man turned out to be a former military intelligence official in Saddam Hussein’s army and was suspected of helping insurgent cells in Ramadi.
Two other men arrived at the house shortly, inquiring about their friend.
“You see that airplane up there?” asked Tsuneyoshi, gesturing to an unmanned aerial vehicle circling above. “We can see into buildings. We can hear your phone calls. We have sensors all over the city.”
Whether true or not, the two men got the message. The former intelligence official, who was caught with an assault rifle and a cell phone that received text messages while the soldiers questioned him, was detained and taken to a U.S. holding facility.
Other than a series of mortar rounds and a U.S. battery firing back, Company C didn’t hear a shot fired. A few blocks over, though, Company D took fire on the same streets where they engaged insurgents the day before. The company also reported killing at least one insurgent, who had fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the patrol.
Back with Company C, medic Staff Sgt. John Ivie, 24, of Eden, N.C., was asked to treat an elderly couple who had befriended other U.S. troops. The woman complained of pain in her legs; the man said he had shortness of breath.
Ivie recommended the man stop smoking, a habit he’d had for 40 of his 70 years. Immediately after hearing the advice, the man nodded, agreed, and lit a cigarette.
The Iraqi commandos, who served with U.S. forces in Fallujah and other cities, had a message of their own for Ramadi residents. The commandos told residents not to tolerate outsiders bringing violence to their neighborhoods and to help joint patrols by reporting anything suspicious.
“What happened in Fallujah,” one of the commandos told a Ramadi resident, “take care that it doesn’t happen here.”