AR RAMADI, IRAQ --
During December 2006, Mark Kukis of TIME magazine called Ar Ramadi the most dangerous city in Iraq. The capital of the Al Anbar province is now considered a prime security example of everything that is going right in Iraq.
Part of this successful turnaround can be attributed to an integration of coalition forces and Iraqi security forces to make a safer Iraq for the people of this formerly oppressed nation. It’s a turnaround which is a shining example of what U.S. troops need to do to win the war.
One of Ramadi’s achievements is the level of peace and security its residents enjoy. One of the Bush administration’s major goals for troop withdrawal is having Iraqis responsible for the security of their country. Marines in Anbar have formed teams, called military police transition teams, which deal directly with Iraqi Security Forces to help meet this goal.
Capt. Sean P. Carroll is one such Marine. The commanding officer of Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, attached to the U.S. Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Multi National Force-West, Carroll was the coordinator for his battalion’s ISF cell during their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. As Carroll and his fellow service members return home, the Marines of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, have come to Ramadi to carry on the mission started by 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, earlier this year.
“It’s hard to turn over all our hard work and progress to another unit,” said Carroll, a San Diego native. “We know 1st Bn., 8th Marines, can take over this program successfully. We’re very satisfied with that.”
Carroll credited part of the battalion’s success to the efforts of the MTTs and PTTs that were brought together as the ISF cell. He said the success of the cell came from the hard work and determination of the Marines.
“The first thing we had to do was clear our area of operations of insurgent safe houses and strongholds,” said the 1994 Valhalla High School graduate. “There was a large involvement with the Iraqi Police, the Iraqi Army and the emergency response units. Then we started organizing the ISF units in our AO into a more capable and effective force.”
Carroll’s ISF cell pushed for more training for the Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army units in their area of operations including formal training academies and daily training with Marines in the ISF cell. Carroll’s team was also responsible for starting programs to train female IPs.
“It was a major accomplishment,” he said. “We were able to start a training program for the female IPs and integrate them into the force.”
The Marines of 1st Bn., 8th Marines, hope to carry on the accomplishments achieved by Carroll and his men as they begin their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. First Lt. Jeromy Johnson was selected to replace Carroll as the ISF coordinator for the battalion.
“The ISF cell is a very important part of the mission,” said Johnson, the executive officer for Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Bn., 8th Marines. “All the police transition teams in the ISF cell can show Iraqis how to do things. The Iraqis have the knowledge to take over security.”
Johnson has been given a section of the battalion’s personnel security detachment to help carry out his mission. Johnson says the decision to place a section of PSD in the ISF cell came from the battalion commander.
“They provide security for the ISF cell,” said the Roxboro, N.C., native. “We’d have no one to provide security during our meetings without them.”
Johnson’s goal is to get several of the IP stations operating independently of his Marines in the ISF cell. He plans to accomplish this by gradually pulling back the coalition forces operating with Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army units.
“I think we will have multiple stations operating independently before we leave,” said the husband and father of three. “The stations will only need logistical support from us.”
Before U.S. troops can turn over the security of Iraq to Iraqis, the people of Iraq must demonstrate they can provide security for their country. With help from service members like Carroll and Johnson, the day when American troops can leave Iraq, knowing that Iraq and the United States are safer, is approaching faster with each passing day.