FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Iraqi soldiers and police delivered pens, paper, art supplies and other assorted school supplies to approximately 600 students enrolled at the Al Anbar School here March 18.
The Iraqi soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division and Fallujah police, known to the locals as the “Sons of Fallujah,” loaded a trailer with the school supplies, as well as toys, soccer balls and candy to pass out to the children.
“The mission was entirely Iraqi-run. The (soldiers) and Fallujah police worked together to bring the supplies to the students,” said 1st Lt. Mark Peckham, a 28-year-old Los Angeles native. “We wanted to get the Iraqi Army and Police working together to show the populace the IA and IPs run the city, not the insurgents.”
Military Transition Team Marines advising the 2nd Iraqi Army Brigade took a backseat role, posting security around the school to allow the Iraqi soldiers, or “jundi” in Arabic, and Sons of Fallujah to show their faces to the public and children in the school in a positive way without having to worry about insurgent reprisals. Iraqis serving in the army and police force are high-profile targets for anti-Iraqi forces more concerned with building their own power base than seeing a stable Iraq.
“We posted several security positions around the school to watch for any insurgent activity,” explained Peckham. “If things got crazy we would be there to help them, but we wanted them to operate on their own. That’s one of the only ways they are going to have a positive impact on the people.”
Although the Marines were present, they showed little to no force in the mission. One of the main reasons for having Marines go out with the jundi and police is to boost the morale of the Iraqi forces, Peckham said.
The jundi see Marines and know if anything goes wrong the Marines are there to support them. It is a confidence booster for the Iraqis, knowing their American counterparts are nearby.
“It’s important to get the IA and IPs in the city to show they are doing good things for the people,” Peckham explained. “If the people notice the IA and IPs making life easier for them, they will realize as long as the insurgents are in the city it makes it difficult for the good guys to do good things.”
The jundi and Sons of Fallujah worked hand-in-hand to deliver the school supplies to the children of the school, who greeted them with smiles and laughs.
Although the mission was to deliver school supplies and candies, the Iraqi soldiers and police were also showing they could work together to the people. While the Sons of Fallujah are a familiar sight on the city streets, the residents of the city are still adjusting to having Iraqi soldiers operating in their hometown.
“The IA and IPs want to show the people they are cooperating with each other,” Peckham explained. “This will hopefully make the populace of Fallujah, which is mostly Sunni, more comfortable with the Iraqi Army, which is mostly Shia,” he continued.
The mission was successful all around. The children were very pleased with the supplies given to them by the Iraqi Army and Fallujah police. It was positive feedback for both groups of Iraqis, letting them know their efforts do make a difference.
The Iraqi Army, Police and Marines were pleased with how the mission was carried out. The Iraqi forces not only showed a positive presence in the area but they accomplished the mission in a timely manner, Peckham explained.
The more the jundi and Fallujah police show their presence throughout Fallujah, the more cooperative the people will become. The Iraqi forces want the people feel comfortable enough to approach them and provide vital information about insurgent activity. By taking school supplies to the children attending Al Anbar School, and passing out candy and soccer balls in the city, the Iraqi forces create an essential positive image required to build the trust of the Fallujans.