Monday, March 19, 2007

NPs bent, not broken by terror attack

By Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — A savage attack on an Iraqi national police checkpoint on the Iraqi highway known as Route Tampa that left eight policemen dead and wounded several others on Feb. 23 left scars on buildings and Iraqis alike, but did not dim the Iraqis’ spirit.
Soldiers of the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment and Soldiers of Company A, 210th Brigade Support Battalion's combat logistics patrol platoon and Co. B, 210th BSB, all of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) and U.S. Marines of the 6272 National Police Transition Team reacted swiftly and assembled at the checkpoint Feb. 26 to help with the aftermath of the attack.
Two terrorists were killed in the skirmish with the 2nd Battalion, 72nd National Police Brigade. The attack damaged the building and guard shacks, leaving walls pocked with holes.
“The attackers had very good weapons,” said Sgt. Nadam Na’if. “They wore ammunition under their clothes, so we couldn’t see that they were so well-armed.”
The assault was insulting considering that the police were trying to be receptive to the neighborhood.
“We had just gotten an order to be especially kind to civilians,” said Sgt. Ali Jassim. “We said ‘welcome,’ and they started shooting.”
“The soldiers that work here just want to care for their families,” Na’if said. “We’re not out here to hurt anyone. We took fire from everywhere, and there was nowhere to hide. The terrorists are polite to the American Soldiers that patrol, because they know they’re outgunned. But on us, they’ll open fire. We want get this area under control and peaceful, we just need help.”
To provide that help, the U.S. and Iraqi forces combined their efforts to make the post safer and more livable. While the checkpoint was functional even right after the attack, force protection and improvements like showers will make it safer and more comfortable for those who live there.
Several ideas were proposed by Lt. Col. Hassan, the battalion commander for 2/72 NPB, the Marines and the 210th BSB Soldiers, and in the end, a mixture of the ideas was adopted.
Soldiers of the 210th BSB brought concertina wire, gloves, huge, steel-wire, fabric-lined cages to be filled with dirt and rocks, and concrete barriers to surround the post and protect the national police inside from small-arms and even rocket-propelled grenade fire. Soldiers of the 210th BSB used an M88 Hercules tank recovery vehicle to move the heavy concrete walls into place as Marines fine-tuned the placement of the dangling slabs.
Later in the day, Sgt. Steven Willard, Sgt. Caleb Welsh, and Spc. Tiffany Pinkerton hit on a better idea - using the Palletized Load System and Load Handling System with its specialized hook - to move the barriers.
"They did an outstanding job," said Capt. Anita Trepanier, Co. A commander. "They used their ingenuity to accomplish the mission."
A shower trailer has been ordered for the police as well – many of whom now have to go to battalion headquarters in Baghdad just to shower. The kitchen, destroyed by a grenade, will be restored, and sleeping quarters improved.
“We’re turning this into a combat outpost for housing a battalion of national police,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gregory Kniell, a native of Baltimore and a radio-telephone operator who works with the transition team. “We’re building an outer wall with concrete barriers. Hopefully, a safer post will help them in their mission.”
The training provided by the transition team should help them recover as well. They are training them on weapons handling and firing.
“We’re training them to be an organized unit,” Kniell said. “They’re getting better. They’ve got more to learn, but that’s always the case with any unit – you can always improve.”
Kniell said he enjoyed spending the day working with Soldiers and Iraqis.
“It’s been a really interesting experience, working with the national police and the U.S. Army,” he said.
1st Lt. Wessam Jassim, a platoon leader with the 2/72 NP, brought several of his soldiers to help with the improvements.
“It’s great, I’m very glad,” he said of the work being done. “I’m very happy that the Army and Marines support us so much. This will help; we’ll be much safer here now.”
The policemen seemed to enjoy having the American troops around, laughing and joking in pidgin Arabic and English as they built new guard shacks with re-used lumber and stacked sandbags.
Pfc. Chad Davidson, a medic with the 1/89 Cav and a native of Sacramento, Calif., spoke at length with some of the Iraqi men through an interpreter while he treated them for wounds received in the attack and illnesses.
“I really like helping the Iraqis and making friends, talking with them. Sometimes it’s not even Soldier-to-soldier talk – just person-to-person,” he said.
“It’s a positive development that we as the U.S. can aid in supporting the Iraqis and helping them make their country their own, said U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Steve Wright, a native of Jacksonville, N.C., and a trainer. “The Army has been treating us very well, and they have more assets as far as the equipment. What we’re doing here is a very positive thing.”

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