February 23rd, 2007 03:44 EST
Security in Al-Doura Getting Better
BAGHDAD " Face time. " It seems to be a term used more by celebrities than Soldiers, but as Iraqi Army and Police go on patrols with Coalition forces, face time " is something one unit is saying is very important to their mission of capturing the bad guys.
On what`s become a normal patrol mission in Baghdad`s northwest Al-Doura neighborhood, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Soldiers are using the results of their face time " to help catch the enemy.
Our presence is very important, " said Staff Sgt. Juan A. Lopez, a Bronx, N.Y. native. The [locals] will talk to us and tell us where the caches and insurgents are, they will tell us about new people who have moved into their neighborhood threatening them.
It`s a positive we are here everyday. That way, little by little, we can make a difference.
On a patrol of one neighborhood in the Humvees, children were peeking out of their gates and waiving to the Soldiers through their bulletproof glass. Wave at them, man, " Lopez told one of his Soldiers in the vehicle. They might remember you later and say, "hey, I waived at that Soldier when I was a little kid.` "
Lopez, who, back in the Bronx, has a Yemeni friend who taught him some Arabic phrases, uses it to reach out to the community. When he and his Soldiers walk around the market, they are swarmed by young children. Lopez uses his limited Arabic to joke with the children.
In one of the muhallas, " or neighborhoods, there is a thriving marketplace within what used to be a traffic circle. The locals go there to buy fresh fish, produce, clothes, shoes and other items. As recent as a month ago, insurgent activity forced a lot of them to stay away from the market. Lopez and his unit had seen some fierce fighting there. During the battle, the Coalition forces repelled the insurgents from the neighborhood.
In a way, the locals have, in casual meetings with the Coalition forces, learned to embrace them. During their cordon and search missions, the Soldiers commonly refer to the meetings as block parties. " It`s not uncommon for the locals to ask Soldiers and Iraqi National Police officers to come in and have some tea.
According to Lopez, his unit has captured a lot of suspects which is a direct result of their presence patrols and the bonds they make during them.
One day, a lady told us to take someone because he was a cell leader, " he recalled. It wouldn`t be like that if we weren`t out here. We found a lot of guys and caches because of all the tips [from the locals]. "
During a recent block party, Lopez and his team searched a house owned by a married couple with a small child. When asked how they felt about being searched, the husband said he didn`t mind it because it made their community safer to have Soldiers around.
Another important relationship they have fostered is the one they have with the Iraqi National Police.
We can`t do everything, so that`s why we work with the NPs (National Police), " he said. And now that the Iraqi Army is here, the [insurgents] are pulling out. It makes a difference, and that`s what they want.
(Story and photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kap Kim, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)