November 29th, 2007 02:21 EST
First Military Police Company in Balad Sets Up
BALAD " Through her binoculars, military police (MP) squad leader, Staff Sgt. Iris Munoz, observes people in a vehicle behaving suspiciously. She signals to the Iraqi Police (IP) she mentors, staffing a busy traffic checkpoint with her. They heed her command and begin the protocol for handling a suspicious vehicle.
Searching vehicles and personnel at checkpoints is a vital job. So is developing the IP force. Leaders agree one of the toughest and most critical missions facing military police Soldiers in Iraq today is teaching, training and developing the IP.
Day-after-day, MPs with the 164th Military Police Company, including Munoz, have faced this vital, dangerous mission head on, providing mentorship, guidance, and support to IPs at dozens of police stations throughout Balad and surrounding cities.
Under Saddam Hussein, IPs were little more than his thugs. We`re trying to get the concept of community policing here, " said Capt. Matthew Norris, commander of the 164th MP Co. Getting these guys out in the community, interacting with citizens, showing citizens that IPs are doing their job and are doing it well. "
Regarding IPs overall competency, Norris admits it`s been a mixed bag.
Some stations are certainly doing better than others, but we`ve seen vast improvements in the four months we`ve been on the job, " he said.
Before, IPs didn`t know how to search vehicles and personnel. Now they are beginning to follow procedures consistently and catch warning signs early, Norris continued.
Yet challenges remain.
Language and cultural differences are tough, " said Sgt. Wesley Rath, an MP with the 164th. We don`t know much Arabic and they don`t know much English, so we use a lot of hand and arm signals, gestures, and we demonstrate techniques for them, " he said.
The platoon rolls out with one interpreter.
The 164th was mobilized as part of the surge and within four months, these MPs from frigid Fort Richardson, Alaska found themselves in Iraq at the peak of summer.
The 164th is the first MP company to train IPs in Balad and surrounding areas.
It`s a challenge everyday. Everyday it`s something new, but I`ve seen improvements in these IPs, " said Munoz.
She has established a good rapport with IPs in Balad and the commander of a police station in Balad said he valued her expertise and commitment to the IPs.
I am grateful for Sergeant Munoz and her team, " he said through an interpreter. They come to us by day and by night. "
The commander of the police station said he is tough on his IPs because the mission is too important to fail.
The 164th agrees. That`s why day-after-day they train, teach, and mentor IPs so sooner rather than later the IPs can do the job alone.
(Story by Sgt. Jasmine Chopra, 302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)