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“Darkhorse” battalion supports Iraqi police

28 Oct 2007 | Pfc. Brian Jones

 While violence declines here, Iraqi police continue to grow stronger backed by the support of Marines.

 Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, are deployed throughout the city to continue their supporting role for the IPs and other security forces here.

 Marines with Company I took position in the northern districts of the city, working closely with IPs at their precincts, providing the support needed to ensure the IPs’ development can keep pace with their city’s.

 Marines have partnered with the IPs to conduct joint counterinsurgency operations. The end state is that the city becomes self-reliant and the Marines move out maintaining security positions outside of the city.

 The Marines’ focus is on the IPs as they produce results by utilizing resources that haven’t been open to Marines. They have done this with an increasing level of assistance they have received from the people of the city. Local residents have become proactive about turning in information regarding insurgent activity.

 “We have great control in the city because we have a lot of sources in the city,” said IP Capt. Assif Ghazi, commanding officer of the Khadairy precinct. “When we treat the people really good and with respect, they appreciate that. In return, we get a lot of information and catch a lot of the bad guys and it remains really quiet. It’s a really good situation right now.”

 Assif said Khadairy was so safe that if he had to choose a district within the city to go jogging, it would be, without a doubt, this one. He also said the people’s attitudes about the city’s security situation were mixed.

 “Half the people want the Marines to leave the city, and the other half have been greatly helped by the Marines and want them to stay because of the benefits of the projects that are going on,” Assif said.

 City residents are seeing benefits from American organizations adopting schools, donating school supplies to the children and the many city cleanup projects underway.

 Platoon commader, 2nd Lt. A.J. DeSantis spends a considerable amount of time in the captain’s office working up proposals for neighborhood projects and coordinating patrols. DeSantis said the IPs insist on doing the majority of the patrols. They want the people to see the IPs patrol the streets rather than the Marines. Assif said his concern was how it would look to residents of Khadairy if the IPs were still having the Marines do their job. The people would be aggravated leaving them to think the IPs are incapable and the Marines would be here even longer, he said.

 “Sometimes I feel like I’m stepping on the IPs’ toes, and a lot of the time I have to back off because they are so eager to take charge here,” DeSantis said. “It’s obvious to see the IPs have a real sincere invested interest in this. It’s not us pushing them. Sometimes it’s us bringing them back a little. They really do care. Their effort is displayed in their actions. They definitely have a concern and they want to get things right.”

 During prior deployments, these Marines didn’t have much experience working with what was, at the time, a newly developed police force. Most of the time was spent with the Iraqi army.

 “Last year we worked with IPs a little bit, but we didn’t know who they were,” said Sgt. Cody C. Turpen, a 22-year-old squad leader. “We would see them and we wouldn’t know what they were doing. We couldn’t really trust them, but now we see them every day. They are doing an excellent job considering what they were doing a year before.”

 For the first time, the “Darkhorse” battalion Marines are going on joint patrols with the IPs. The police lead the way, instilling confidence in the residents of the precinct.

 “You could tell when we first went out that (locals) had seen a whole lot of Marines,” Turpen said. “Overall, I’m not saying that they don’t want us here, but I think they believe the IPs can handle it.”