RAWAH, Iraq --
“Why are you detaining me?” yelled the flex-cuffed suspect, sitting outside his home while Iraqi Security Forces searched the building for evidence of insurgent activity. Outside, a similar situation unfolded where other suspected insurgents waited under guard and flex-cuffed near their vehicle while Iraqi police investigators photographed the improvised explosive device found in the bed of the vehicle.
The capture of the ‘insurgents’ was the culminating event in a three-day Tactical Sight Exploitation course held on Combat Outpost Rawah, Iraq, May 25-27. The course was presented by International Police Advisors and Marines with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 8, who helped advise and play the role of the insurgents during the exercise.
“The Iraqis are very organized,” said Sgt. Scott Dietrich, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the TSE course. “They have searchers, a recorder and a photographer. They have roles and everyone knows their job.”
During the first two days of the course, International Police Advisors instructed Iraqi policemen and soldiers on evidence location, cache finds, search techniques and detainee handling. Each class subject led directly into the next, building off what was taught previously.
“This is the first time they’ve been investigators,” said Ed Coleman, a retired Baltimore, Md., police officer and an IPA with Police Transition Team 7, Multi National Force - West.
During the regime of Saddam Hussein, policemen were soldiers specifically tasked with urban environments, but detective work wasn’t assigned to anyone. Since the installment of legitimate police forces within Iraq, they have gradually shifted into protecting their communities through traditional police work.
“The army has their job fighting insurgents,” Coleman said. “The police will be investigating crimes and be police for a change.”
After the Anbar Awakening, Iraqis and Coalition forces have been working hand-in-hand to find and disrupt insurgent networks, but employing the methodical process of tactical sight exploitation now allows them the ability to be crime scene investigators. Catching an insurgent in the act of planting an IED or attacking ISF didn’t involve much investigating, but now that insurgent activity has moved underground, the investigative process is a key element in solving crimes.
“The problem the ISF had at first was they were detaining the people in the house right away,” Dietrich said.
The Iraqis learned when there is suspicious activity involved within a house, detaining the individuals in the home before finding proof of wrongdoing led to resistant detainees. By sitting the citizens down on a couch and letting the police find evidence usually makes the citizens less defensive and more willing to cooperate.
The capstone event of the course consisted of a scenario where there was a truck with bomb-making materials, a supposed IED cache in a yard, and a house filled with suspected insurgents. The teams were split between Iraqi police and army, and they had to work together to solve each crime and connect the evidence between the cache, truck and the house.
The Iraqis were quick to find the evidence in the bed of the truck because it’s a common place for insurgents to hide materials. Once the ISF had suspicions of a cache sight in the yard, they found a target indicator and swept the ground with a metal detector.
“A target indicator is a marking stone, tree or pile of rocks,” said Lance Cpl. Solomon Gomez, a grenadier with Company G. “It’s basically any anomaly in the landscape.”
The policemen quickly found a pile of rocks that seemed out of place. After they did a quick metal detector sweep, they carefully dug up the dirt and scraped an artillery shell. But without a target indicator, this can take much longer.
“If you can’t find that TI, you’ll be there all day,” Gomez said.
Learning when to detain the suspects was taught by lessons learned; but where and how to treat the detainees seemed second nature to these men.
“They were smart getting the two detainees away from each other so they wouldn’t be able to collaborate a story,” said Cpl. Tom Richmond, a team leader and course role-player with Company G.
After the three-day course of instructing how to find evidence and applying what they’ve learned, the students had their graduation ceremony.
The Iraqi people are well aware of Coalition forces dwindling down their presence and also know they must trust their police officers and soldiers to protect them.
“Whether or not they maintain the gains they have made, it matters if they have the heart or not,” Coleman said.
Though the suspects and IED may be fake, the new-found skills of the Iraqi policemen were not. This growing evidence of the ISF’s increasing ability to secure and safeguard their own country will in turn allow the U.S. to drawdown its forces from Iraq.