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    Soldiers follow insurgents' trail, secure city from harm

    Soldiers follow insurgents' trail, secure city from harm

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch | Iraqi army soldiers search a house in Rahaliyah for weapons caches during combat...... read more read more

    By Spc. Ricardo Branch
    1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Official

    RAHALIYAH, Iraq - The Soldiers moved under the cover of darkness. The rising sun marked the end of their journey and the start of their mission: searching a town for insurgent activity.

    Soldiers of Company A, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor, joined with Iraqi soldiers from 1st battalion, 1st brigade, 1st Iraqi army division along the edge of Al Anbar province to conduct a joint-clearing operation in Rahaliyah, March 9 through 11.

    "We're searching the area for weapons caches and anything outside of the norm," said Co. A, Commander Capt. Greg Ralls. "You have to push out to the far ends of your sector to confirm that there's nothing bad going on. We haven't found anything yet, but that doesn't mean nothing is happening here."

    During the first day of the operation, Iraqi soldiers went house-to-house speaking with locals while the U.S. Soldiers remained in the background to provide casualty evacuation and tactical assistance.

    "We're just over-watching them and advising them on anything they have questions with during the operation," said Sgt. Thomas Reynolds, an infantryman with Co. A.

    He said the Iraqi soldiers are proficient enough to where U.S. Soldiers focus on the small details like weapons on fingers, and muzzle awareness.

    "Basically, we're looking at their weapon orientation and weapon security to give them guidance to improve upon the little things," Reynolds said.

    The Iraqi soldiers moved down the road, occasionally stopping and speaking to the locals. They would travel into a house, search it from top to bottom and then paint a small circle with a slash, signaling the home was safe.

    "The Iraqis are doing a good job, they are real proficient," Reynolds said. "These guys are considered the recon group; they have had several missions with (Army) special forces and the Navy SEALS, so I don't have to worry too much over them."

    Many of the U.S. Soldiers have worked with the Iraqi army before and have seen a big change over multiple deployments from their Iraqi partners.

    "We tried working with them in Samarra during my last deployment," Reynolds said. "It didn't work out too well because the area was pretty crazy, and the IA soldiers weren't ready yet. The army was still just brand new back then."

    He said today's Iraqi army is a far-cry from the troops he saw last time. When he watched the Iraqis move down the street, he sees their professional bearing and respect toward the people.

    "Since the year I was gone and came back, they have definitely improved," Reynolds said. "The whole structure and how they conduct themselves has gotten better. I can't say enough how they have improved."

    Much of Al Anbar was lawless for years. The surge in the police force last year created an influx in security forces, so the Soldiers spent a majority of their time working on training the Iraqi police. The Iraqi police in Rahaliyah are what make up the sole security force in the area.

    "Not only are we clearing Rahaliyah, we're making sure that the police are being taken care of," Reynolds said. "We come down here to make sure they are getting paid and recognized by the Iraqi government."

    During the second day of the operation, the Iraqi soldiers spread through an orchard with a small contingent of U.S. Soldiers, looking for signs of people traveling through and possibly hiding things in the fields.

    "We're looking to secure the area and push out any terrorists that may be hiding here," said Iraqi Sgt. 1st Class Mazin Raad Abduljaba. "Terrorists killed two Iraqi police from this area, so we're here to stop that from happening again."

    He said that since their arrival, the people in Rahaliyah have been very happy to see them. Locals turned out to greet the Iraqi army soldiers searching the fields and a farmer even offered water to the troops who rested at his house.

    "They are happy to see us here conducting missions around the city," Abduljaba said. "It brings a lot of comfort when you see Iraqi soldiers patrolling around rather than only coalition."

    The Iraqi army has been patrolling the area for the last four months. In the time they have been there, the IA soldiers see a change in the short time they have been in Rahaliyah.

    "People used to be kidnapped here," Abduljaba said. "Now if you look around, people are able to walk around outside their homes and live safe."

    As the mission ended, the two-day operation netted about a dozen suspects, uncovered a small amount of weapons, and valuable information for future operations.



    Date Taken: 03.21.2008
    Date Posted: 03.21.2008 10:04
    Story ID: 17620
    Location: IQ

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