RAMADI, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces have been working hand-in-hand with U.S. forces for years. They have received countless hours of hands-on training in areas such as basic rifle marksmanship, room clearing procedures and patrolling. Now, they are proficient enough to train their own. As Iraqi forces are conducting their own missions and regularly capturing members of local terrorist groups, the American military has relinquished the responsibility of securing the country to the Iraqi army and police. Their focus has now shifted to the leadership.
A special team of soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, has been tasked with advising senior Iraqi officers on how to develop and work through their own systems to become an organization that can sustain itself when U.S. forces leave Iraq.
“If we’re the ones fighting, we’re crippling the Iraqis because they’re not doing it themselves,” said Maj. William White, a member of the Anbar Police Directorate Stability Transition Team. A native of Port St. Lucie, Fla., White is the STT’s maintenance, medical, logistics and media adviser to the police in Iraq’s Anbar Province.
White and other STT members act as consultants, which means working closely with their Iraqi partners. So close, in fact, that the team’s compound is located inside the Anbar Police Directorate compound, secured by Iraqi police and paratroopers assigned to the 2/82’s B Co., 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment.
The team members walk from their compound to visit their Iraqi counterparts almost daily. Their rendezvous’ largely consist of simply talking through any issues the IP have and advising them as to how to find a solution themselves.
Lt. Col. William Boucher, who advises 40 Anbar police leaders including provincial chief of police Maj. Gen. Hadi Azaij Kassar, frequents the criminal evidence directorate on the compound in Ramadi to check on the policemen’s increased capabilities. Currently, policemen are qualified to collect and process evidence. However, the evidence must then be sent to Baghdad for certification to be entered into court.
This is why six lieutenants at the CED are going to school to be able to certify document and ballistic evidence at Ramadi. “This means any evidence collected in Ramadi would be sent to the Ramadi CED for processing,” Boucher said.
By cutting down on the number of people handling the evidence and keeping it in one place, it is much less likely to become damaged or contaminated. This will allow them to enter more evidence into court and greatly increase their ability to use that evidence to convict the people responsible for the crime, he said. The CED is working to get three more lieutenants to become experts to certify fingerprints within the next 18 months, which will make the lab fully capable.
“The lieutenants are very talented,” Boucher said. “They’ve started stepping up.”
Lt. Ali Fakhri Abbas is one of those exceptional young officers. Ali is the media relations and public affairs director for the Anbar Police Directorate. Although the position is normally filled by a higher-ranking official, he has achieved more for the Iraqi police’s media teams than his predecessors. “He has the drive and initiative that the older [directors] didn’t,” said White.
Ali has been more proactive than past media directors by pushing through a lengthy approval process to acquire funds to purchase new photo and video equipment for the IP media teams throughout the province. He coordinated with White for his personnel to receive photo and video training from the 2/82 public affairs team, as well as the creation of the IP’s own television program.
"The Punishment" highlights arrests made by the police, including confessions from the criminals and on-the scene re-enactments of the crimes. The training they received from the brigade’s media experts increases their ability to create professional products to keep the public informed about the Iraqi police’s mission in the province.
“The STT helped us a lot,” Ali said. “During Maj. White’s time [as the IP media adviser], he has helped us achieve our main goal of producing the television program.”
“The APD has benefited greatly from the efforts of the STT,” police chief, Major Gen. Hadi, agreed. “[Several] directorates have improved a great amount due to their efforts.”
According to White and Boucher, these young officers hold the key to ensuring Iraq can stand on its own. The members of the Iraqi police have spent most of their lives in the Anbar province, which was once known as the most dangerous area in Iraq. It is now the safest.
“They’ve seen the peace that we create, and they saw that it works,” White said. “They want to emulate that.”