By Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Roughly one year after turning against al-Qaida and committing to serve the community he once damaged, a local leader was assassinated in the Jurf as-Sakhr area of northern Babil province, Oct. 18, 2008.
Sheikh Hadi Obeiss Maki had been a leader of the Sons of Iraq security forces in the region since May, and a staunch supporter of coalition forces since late 2007. Hadi was walking in the village when he was killed in a drive-by shooting.
Hadi was one of the best guys I had as far as helping us promote security for the people, said Capt. Eric Tisland, who worked closely with the sheikh and the region as the commander of Company A, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
"Every indication I got from the people of Jurf as-Sakhr was that Hadi supported the coalition forces. His death solidified the fact that he supported coalition forces, and he was being successful in helping us, supporting us and dismantling the bad guys who remained in Jurf," said Tisland.
Hadi was once a Jaish al-Islami leader in the Sunni Resistance and fought against the coalition from 2003 until his reconciliation in September 2007. In fact, he was among wanted targets by CF in the area up until he reconciled.
"He decided to stop being involved with the insurgency because he realized he was doing more damage than good to the people. He wanted to make up for his involvement in the insurgency. He wanted to make up for the mistakes he made," said Tisland, of Richmond Hill, Ga.
Tisland arrived to the area in November and began meeting with Sheikh Hadi early the following January. Originally, Hadi was very leery of coming to the coalition and providing support because of his past, and Tisland admitted he too had apprehensive feelings over their partnership. Except, Hadi's commitment to serve his people and support the coalition became evident the more the two worked together. In the following months the two sides began to trust one another as Hadi provided information that led to the capturing and killing of criminal leaders in the area.
Hadi was a very influential man, with strong character and determination. When he turned away from violence, a lot of former insurgents followed suit because of him.
In May, a roadside bomb attack killed one U.S. Soldier and wounded three others. In response to the attack, the local SoI leader at the time was fired of his duties and Hadi was hired to assume SoI security responsibilities in Farasiyah, just north of Jurf as-Sakhr. Farasiyah was thought to be one of the riskier areas in the region and that was one of the major reasons Hadi was selected for the job.
"We knew Hadi was a strong advocate and told us how he wanted to do right by the people, so that played a role in our decision to make him the SoI leader over Farasiyah," Tisland said. "The SoI actually responded to him very well. He was more military-minded than the guy he succeeded. He took a more military approach to the work."
Hadi immediately took charge and took pride in his work. He assumed control in the area, delegated duties and spread responsibilities. He also moved some of the checkpoints to improve their effectiveness in the area.
"Absolutely nothing bad happened in Farasiyah (after he took control). Certainly no more attacks ... After a month or two people really saw he was doing [a good] job as the Farasiyah leader. He was dedicated to supporting coalition forces and doing what he could to help the people, informing them and talking to them about what was going on," Tisland said.
This work, From insurgent to community leader: Iraq loses a hero, by MSG Michel Sauret, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.