News: Cleaning bad habits: IP training in Ramadi by Alaska military police
Story by Sgt. Mike MacLeod
CAMP RAMADI, Iraq — Bad habits are like dirty laundry. The longer they stay, the worse they smell.
Bad habits in the policeman who guards the Provincial Government Center in Ramadi, Iraq, can result in the deaths of civil and political leaders who have been key to the ever-increasing stability of Al Anbar province, once home to the most violent insurgency in Iraq.
Misidentify a threat, fail to see the sniper, let the car bomb past the entry control point — any number of missed opportunities to derail the attempts of violent extremists can allow for an incident similar to the double-bombing that occurred Dec. 30, 2009, at the PGC in which the governor of Anbar lost his hand, a provincial council member was killed and two dozen other people lost their lives.
In police work, bad habits are removed by refresher training. Following the double-bombing, staff Maj. Gen. Baha Husayn Abd Hassan, the acting provincial chief of police, requested U.S. forces to provide refresher training to Iraqi police in a number of specialties, including what's known in security jargon as force protection and personnel security detail. In more common terms, these mean protecting VIPs and protecting themselves and their buildings.
Directions: to remove bad habits, take a training center run by the provincial Iraqi SWAT commander, add policemen from the PGC. Pour in an Alaskan military police company attached to 82nd Airborne Division, and spin for five days.
Since early March, Soldiers with 472nd MP Company out of Fairbanks, Alaska, have been retraining Iraqi police at the Ramadi Training Center, running parallel five-day courses in force protection and PSD that merge on the final day for a series of practical exercises.
The force protection course covers first aid, vehicle and personnel search, installing and operating entry control points, and evaluating and establishing force protection measures.
"They understand these skills are perishable," said Staff Sgt. William Melton, squad leader in charge of the force protection instruction.
The PSD training, run by fellow MP, Staff Sgt. Eric Armstrong, includes identifying threats such as snipers and improvised explosive devices, working in formations and moving VIPs, unarmed self defense using pressure points and joint manipulation, motorcade operations including what to do in case of an IED or broken vehicle, and command center operations.
According to their platoon leader, 1st Lt. Andrew Wedmeyer, the course emphasizes identifying and searching female threats, a rising problem as terrorists shift their tactics.
On the second day of the first week, Pfc. LeAnn Balderamos, a slightly-built part Sioux Native American from Rapid City, S.D., slipped through the IP's simulated ECP with a water bottle "bomb." Culturally sensitive to females being searched by males, the IP let her slide by the search area.
"Boom!" she hollered. "You're all dead."
AGITATING THE FORCE
"In Anbar, including the army, we have about 34,000 soldiers," counseled Col. Shabban Barzan Ubaidi, commander of the RTC and former Baghdadi police chief who himself was wounded by an IED in 2006.
"If we have only 1,000 soldiers who work with the love of his country in his heart, we will have no terrorists in Anbar," he said.
One of Shabban's brothers was killed by terrorists, and another lost a leg to an IED. One of his houses was blown up. He's had a bounty on his head by insurgent elements for years. Yet he wears the IP uniform proudly and asks his men to do the same.
"Learn as much as you can from the U.S. trainers," he said, "and when the training is done, remember to always be clean shaven and smell good and wear the right uniform so that people will see that we look professional and call upon us for help when they need it."
He asked the IP always to show respect for the civilians whom they serve.
By the third rotation of the courses, the female "insurgents" were having much less luck getting past the front gate of the ECP.
Pfc. Krystal Cuellar from Brownville, Texas, played the role of local female to be searched on the final practical exercise.
"I didn't really mind it," she said. "I feel like it really helps prepare the IP to do their job. And they really did a professional job searching. They use the backs of their hands and other techniques we teach them."
But her role-playing "husband" was very angry.
"Next time, ask the brother or husband before you search," suggested Melton to the IP.
The final exercise included the security detail moving their VIP through the ECP for a "meeting" with Spc. Michael Weymouth, who was playing "chief."
The PSD was late arriving.
"Where is Shakira? She should be in my office by now," hollered Weymouth.
A motorcade crawled through the ECP; each vehicle was thoroughly searched, each passenger frisked and identified. Once permitted to move forward, they safely delivered the pop singer, Shakira — or her IP surrogate — to Weymouth. Everyone was safe: VIP, guards, civilians and IP.
Following a group critique of the day's training, each policeman was awarded a certificate of completion.
"We retrained on how to protect our commander, how to search vehicles and personnel and how to [medically evacuate] our comrade if he is injured at a checkpoint," said 40-year-old Moad Ahmed Brash, a local Ramadi policeman who said he has seen great improvements in the four years he has been with the force.
"I was in Saddam's army, but I chose to serve my country as a policeman so that I can keep safe the people in the immediate area of where I live," he said.
His three young children are very proud their father protects their neighborhood, he said.
"They are very professional now," said Melton. "It's a huge change since last time we were over here. Now the IP are really interested in grasping the concepts behind the skills."
"They love what they do," he added. "It's too dangerous not to like it. These guys run the risk every day, especially where they work at the PGC. Every day may be the day they never get to see their family again."
Diplomas in hand, the IP loaded up to leave the training center and get back on the line, fresh and clean for a difficult and often dirty job.