News: Signposts to Progress
Story by Maj. Jon Powers
The meeting with the Government of Iraq officials came at approximately the half-way point in Maj. Robert Hughes' time in the Green Zone. But the nature of the security functions inside the International Zone has evolved dramatically.
In early February, Hughes met with Hazim M. Hamed, Republic of Iraq Office of the Vice President chief of staff, for a simple exchange of responsibility for the security of the old United Nations compound. With contractors and Iraqi army present, this non-ceremony held meaning beyond the obvious. Over the course of the last four months, the Joint Area Support Group-Central Security Directorate has witnessed a sea change.
"We were prepared that the mission of the JASG was going to be to transition property from DoD and DoS control back over to the Iraqis and today is a perfect example of the transition," said Hughes. "As the Security Directorate we're responsible for making sure the IZ is secure. It's changed because how we conducted that security has changed immensely since we started.
What once was only coalition forces and contractors is now done in cooperation with our Iraqi partners."
Hughes, who works closely with the security contractors, has been a part of the return of Forward Operating Base Union I and the Jan. 1, transfer of responsibility for the Green Zone entry control points.
"It started out that the transition on Jan. 1, was for entry points into the IZ as well as very specific, important pieces of property. We have seen the Iraqis and Americans with contractor involvement that the transition has gone exceptionally well. And that has led us to be able to transition other properties that much quicker," Hughes noted.
In the end, it is not who is pulling security but how they are doing it. By instating a gradual training program, the Green Zone maintains the same level of safety throughout any transition. "The lack of events has shown that we are successful, that the transition with keeping security in mind is successful," said Hughes.
Hughes is restrained when he speaks of Security Directorate's place in history, despite its obvious accomplishments.
"When we came into this, we knew our place in history really was to give a country back to its people, and at the end of the day that is the thing we should be most proud of. We did what we were asked to do. We transitioned their property and their land back to them," he said.
The reason for this may be that he has taken the long view on whether their efforts are successful. "When we will able to tell our story is in 10-15 years when our children are grown," Hughes concluded.