Help Iraqi Neighborhood Councils Step Up
OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq — The soldiers
of Company C, 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, a mix of
armor and infantry, assumed
responsibility for the majority of southern Baghdad’s Risalah community,
an area made up of 12 neighborhoods and home to about 250,000 people, in
The company’s third deployment to Iraq took the soldiers to the Iraqi
capital’s Rashid district and introduced them to an area recovering from
the violence and turmoil of Iranian-backed groups and other enemy operatives
trying to impose their will on the Iraqi people.
attached in Multinational Division Baghdad to the to the 4th
Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, the “Cyclone
Company” soldiers recently took a huge step in the right
direction, their commander, Army Capt. Michael Berriman said.
have changed significantly since his first deployment in 2003,
through his second tour in 2005, and now near the conclusion
of his third deployment, the captain said.
officer from Springfield, Mo., explained that he saw the focus
of efforts change from major combat operations of past deployments
to increasing the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces
and working to return normalcy to the daily lives of the Iraqi
approach has always been that it is going to be a joint effort,” Berriman
said. “The company has always included the Iraqi security
forces, as my goal was to get the ISF involved because I knew
that they would take ownership.”
past seven months, Iraqi security forces have taken ownership
of their communities, and they’re good at it, he said.
got past that part involving ISF,” he said. “The
next thing we did is start incorporating the neighborhood advisory
community’s new neighborhood advisory council hall, collocated
with two Iraqi National Police battalions and coalition forces
at a joint security station, opened Oct. 26 to provide local
leaders a venue where they can meet in a secure area and maintain
direct coordination with their community, Berriman said.
has served more than two years as the Cyclone Company commander,
and his career, like those of many of the company’s other
soldiers, has spanned the many phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom,
working through major combat operations to providing stability
and support for the people of Baghdad.
has been a very interesting deployment, very challenging, and
I think the soldiers of this company can walk away with a good
feeling – a better appreciation for what they have done,” he
citizens started reaping the benefits of the improving security
situation through programs that provide electricity to the
neighborhoods and grants for Iraqi entrepreneurs to stimulate
the local economy, said Army 2nd Lt. Daniel Gorczynski, Company
C fires support officer.
events, such as school supply distributions and community medical
engagements, are critical opportunities to get local leadership,
Iraqi security forces and the people involved, he added.
[neighborhood advisory council] has the biggest potential for
development, especially with civil operations in Risalah, because
they are knowledgeable of the area,” Gorczynski said. “The
power lines, generators, micro-generators and [essential services]
in the area all belong to the NAC.”
Company soldiers recently started working with the council
to gain Education Ministry support to refurbish the schools
in the area, said Gorczynski, a native of Basking Ridge, N.J.
The council also played an essential role in assisting with
resettlement in Risalah, he said, adding that the new governance
building in the Iraqi security forces compound provides a haven
for Iraqis to discuss their problems.
relationship with the neighborhood advisory council and the
Rashid district council have helped to improve the security
situation on the ground, said Army Staff Sgt. Herbert Smitley,
a Company C mechanized infantry platoon sergeant.
said Smitley, a native of Waynesburgh, Pa., it is the best
he has seen in his three deployments to Baghdad.
have a good relationship with the NACs, and that plays an important
part in getting the Iraqi people to work with the U.S. forces
and work with the people to get the [Iranian-backed groups]
out and build trust,” he said.
in Risalah and Saydiyah changed drastically from the heavy
fighting at the beginning of 2008, said Smitley, who re-enlisted
during the deployment.
think that we’re closer than we ever have been in building
a functioning government,” he said. “This year
has been a complete success.”
security forces out on every mission, the company’s focus
has been to push them to work to their maximum potential, said
Smitley, who credited the Iraqi National Police with taking
responsibility for their area of operations.
are taking a step back with the ISF, letting them work to meet
the needs of their people,” he said. “A lot of
our focus is to step out, step back and watch to make sure
that they are doing the right thing.
for us means using their leaders,” he continued. “If
they have one good leader per platoon, then we focus on that
leader, mainly the lieutenants and high-ranking noncommissioned
officers, forcing them to do more of the job.”
Sgt. William Bailey, a Company C mechanized infantry squad
leader, said he has seen a drastic change in conditions and
quality of life for the people in Risalah.
people have returned to the streets, returned to their daily
lives,” he said. “People are out; they are smiling
and living their lives.”
vary day to day for the armor company, Bailey said. Those missions
include conducting cordon-and-knock operations, raids, security
overwatch, market assessments and checkpoint inspections.
security forces gradually have transitioned into a leading
role in providing security for their country, said Bailey,
a native of Worland, Wyo.
soldiers, who primarily conducted patrols from their M2 Bradley
fighting vehicles, now work mostly from Humvees and conduct
dismounted patrols through the area, another indicator of continuing
progress, Bailey noted.
As the unit
looks toward the end of its 15-month deployment in December,
Bailey said, the company’s soldiers and those who follow
must continue to build on the progress.
think it is important to maintain the relationships we have
built with the ISF,” he said. “We have to continue
to work and use the ISF to help accomplish the mission.”
Sgt. Joshua Mager, who worked on a military transition and
training team for the Iraqi security forces in the Rashid district
in 2005, said the Iraqi National Police have made great accomplishments
violence in Iraq subsided, the armor section sergeant and tank
commander traded his M1 Abrams tank for a mine-resistant, ambush-protected
vehicle and assumed many of the duties normally allocated to
an infantryman, he said.
operations remain the same, Mager said he takes pride in watching
the national police grow into the lead, becoming more competent
in the pursuit of the enemy and taking a more active role in
to see the NP doing the same things that the Iraqi army did
back [in 2005], I think we have made great strides and progress
in their security forces,” the Statesboro, Ga., native
aggression of the NP and the aggression of the American forces
pushing the ISF to accomplish the mission have caused the people
in the area to get to a point where they trust us – and
where they trust the NP,” Mager said. “Things are
getting better all the time, and looking over time here in
the next few years, I think we will see a good turning point.”
that he wants to maintain what has been accomplished during
his three deployments in the last five years.