Security forces Airmen help shape Iraq's future|
by Staff Sgt. Scott McNabb
447th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
1/4/2007 - BAGHDAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Iraq (AFPN) -- They only come inside the wire to eat, sleep and work out.
When members of the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron's Detachment 7 go to work, they hit the streets of Baghdad right along side the Iraqi police.
"It makes me nervous every time I have to send someone out," said Capt. Ian Dinesen, Det. 7 operations officer. "I lose a lot of sleep over it, but you know, I'm comfortable in the fact that I'm sending them out there as prepared as I possibly can. There is danger, but I think it is a calculated risk."
The reason for the risk is the unit's mission to train, evaluate, protect and equip the Iraqi police. According to Maj. Thomas Miner, Det. 7 commander, when the nation's police force establishes security over Baghdad and the rest of Iraq, it will play a huge part in stopping sectarian violence.
"The means of doing that is through their police and they're not doing that right now," he said. "Recruiting stations are getting blown up. They're dying en masse when they respond to incidents. They're a threat to the insurgents. If you see the police succeed, it shows stabilization in government, and there are organizations that don't want that. In general, there's organizations out there that don't want to see Iraq become independent."
Tech. Sgt. Jason Spedding, a squad leader and Iraqi police Transition Team leader, said he and his Airmen train and mentor the Iraqi police knowing that the goal is to eventually hand over all operations.
"We check on their force protection, we conduct training with them," he said. "We conduct joint patrols with them every day to observe their procedures as well as provide them with coalition support in areas where they are not comfortable, such as specific neighborhoods where they're afraid of getting shot. We go there to provide fire support as well as to coach and mentor them."
Senior Airman Armando Martinez, a fire team member and training leader who works hand in hand with the Iraqi international police liaison officer to give formal training, said Iraqi-style training differs from U.S. training. He said an effective training method is to work on something specific and practice the tactic on their next patrol. This could be anything from how to take cover to setting up a cordon.
"When we come back (from patrols), we do a de-briefing," Airman Martinez said. "A couple of days later we'll ask them some questions and most of the time they get them right. They already know there are just different ways to do something."
Coalition forces quickly found out that each neighborhood is different. They can go from being shot to being welcomed with open arms. In all areas, the threat is there. The Airmen have little time to mentally wade through the events of any given day. They spend what little down time they have with the same people they patrol with. They watch out for each other and have become a family, Major Miner said.
"That way they can kind of fall back on each other," explained the major. "They've seen well over 380 dead bodies -- murdered bodies, executed bodes. They've seen their own fall on the streets. Some have been shot -- many of them shot at. They can decompress amongst themselves and they can handle situations uncommon to most Airmen. If I offered these guys a five-star hotel, they'd stay in the tents as long as they could stay together. It is the epitome of team."
Major Miner said his Airmen define the term "Battle Airman."
"Their number one priority is survival," he said. "Their number two priority is accomplishing the mission. I think this is the first mission that I can think of in security forces where the squad leader has a level of responsibility that is unimaginable. A squad leader alone is responsible for 300 Iraqi police and all the events that take place in that police district. It's all about the relationship and the rapport that that squad leader builds with that police station."
His operations officer agrees.
"We are the best-trained, best-equipped, smartest ground combat warriors that I know," Captain Dinesen said. "We train our Airmen ... to think independently, cooperate as a team and of course we bring an overwhelming amount of fire power to the fight as well. As Airmen, I think it's inherently in our nature to be very adaptable and very flexible in any situation. As far as the danger aspect of it goes - it's something that we prepare for."
Airman Rodney Bryant, an M240 gunner, said he relies on his fellow Airmen, but he has become a stronger person because of this, his first deployment.
"It hasn't really been as bad as I thought it would be," he said. "I don't get really homesick. The environment is different, but I adapt pretty well."
The Iraqis have adapted a lot of their practices and show progress toward the final goal of running independently.
"A lot of these changes are very small, very subtle," Captain Dinesen said. "They're very few and far between, but when they happen, they are significant changes and it brings a lot of gratification to those guys.
"Bringing them from a force of no trust into the beginnings of an emergence of an alliance within the neighborhood, I think is a big victory," he said. "Seeing the small victories is a big victory."
There is victory also in growing as a person. Major Miner said the biggest thing he has learned during this deployment is the power of adaptability.
"You've always got to be able to change and adapt to the situation at hand," he said. "And if you don't learn to adapt, you're going to fail -- that's from the youngest Airman up."
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