May 31st, 2007 03:34 EST
Al Suleikh JSS, Iraqis take the lead
BAGHDAD — Coalition forces and Iraqi security forces conducted patrols in Al Suleikh Wednesday.
For more than three months, U.S. Soldiers have been living and working side-by-side with the Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army at the Joint Security Station to coordinate security efforts in Al Suleikh.
“They know we’re here to support them, but at the same time, they’re getting to a point where they know security as a whole is in their hands,” said U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Jesse Bowman, an Alpha Battery platoon leader from Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.
The difficult part will be to maintain the security while the U.S. forces step back and the ISF step up.
Ultimately, stability in Iraq depends on the Iraqi security forces taking the lead, said U.S. Army Capt. James Peay battery commander with the 82nd Abn. Div.
When the JSS was first established, the area was so dangerous that the police rarely left the station
Three months later, things have changed. The U.S. presence helped bring the level of violence down significantly. At the same time, it emboldened the ISF to raise their profile in the area – particularly the police.
On May 18 Peay accompanied Iraqi Police chief Lt. Col. Ahmed Abdullah on a combined engagement patrol through the east Baghdad neighborhood of Al Suleikh.
During the patrol, Peay and Ahmed spent several hours walking a loop of the neighborhood around the JSS. They talked to people in their houses, outside washing their cars or anywhere else they found them.
Almost everyone complained about sewage or electricity, which, in the big scheme of things, Peay found promising.
“If they’re complaining about the power, security must be pretty good,” he said.
At times, people came right out of their gates to talk with Ahmed in the middle of the street, an act that newly-arrived platoon leader U.S. Army 1st Lt. Larry Rubal, found incredible.
“I was very surprised by how willing people here were to come out and talk to us in the middle of the road,” he said. “They were just very open.”
While there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in Al Suleikh, the patrols have shown that Iraqis are increasingly capable of standing on their own.
(U.S. Army story by Sgt. Michael Pryor 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)