HIT, Iraq --
Children walk the streets safely, store fronts are filled with patrons buying goods and the Iraqi Security Forces are seen throughout the Al Anbar province keeping the Iraqi people safe from insurgents and terrorist activity. With each passing month, the Iraqi army and police have proved more and more they can protect their citizens with less and less coalition help.
Because of this strong ISF stability, Regimental Combat Team 8 has transitioned Combat Outpost Hit, formerly a very strategically located COP, over to the Iraqi army.
“We have conducted a successful withdrawal, and the Iraqi Security Forces have the RCT’s confidence that they have the capability to maintain the necessary security and stability,” said Maj. Eric Andersen, the RCT-8 Iraqi Security Forces operations officer.
During their stay at the COP, in between key leader engagements with the town’s leadership, the Marines made sure the Iraqis received extra military training to ensure the stability of the COP.
“We ran the [Iraqi soldiers] through a training course and gave them pointers,” said Lance Cpl. Thomas Love, a rifleman with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, RCT-8.
“We carried the [Iraqi soldiers] to ranges and also showed them how to run them,” said Lance Cpl. Gavin Reynolds, a rifleman with Company F.
Working directly with the IA unit transferring into the COP has helped to ensure the stability of the town.
“The biggest thing we did here was help enforce the good relationship and trust with the people of Hit,” said Gunnery Sgt. Melvin Harper Jr., the company gunnery sergeant for Company F.
Leaving behind sand-filled HESCO barriers, bare walls and empty desks, the Marines of Fox Company left the Iraqi soldiers a welcoming gift at their new outpost.
“We cleaned out rooms and moved in 80 sleeping racks and 40 air conditioners,” Reynolds said.
The transfer of COP Hit is only one of many COPs transferred to the Iraqi military or closed altogether during the responsible drawdown of U.S. forces.
“There was a time in late 2008 that there were over 40 outposts and bases in [western Anbar],” Andersen said.
With a well-trained Iraqi army transferring into COP Hit, the nearby city and villages will know they are being protected under the watchful eye of their own military.