CAMP GANNON, Iraq --
It’s not news to read that politicians, famous athletes and even entertainers have bodyguards protecting them from dangerous people; but in Iraq, their judges need protection from the same people they sentence.
This is why the Al Qa’im court system has a new personal security detachment fully trained by Marines with Viking Red Section, Mobile Assault Platoon, Regimental Combat Team 2.
“Part of setting up Iraq’s infrastructure is creating a normal working society,” said Cpl. Dustin Barlag, a Cincinnati, Ohio, native, and vehicle commander with MAP.
‘A normal working society’ protects its people by sentencing criminals in a court of law.
“As these judges are sentencing criminals, their life gets in danger more and more,” Barlag said.
If Iraq’s judicial system is to be fair but stern, the judges need to feel safe from any reprisals.
“This is why there was a PSD created for the judges,” Barlag said.
The newly-appointed PSD of Al Qa’im’s courts were eager to learn from the experienced Marines, who had trained in personnel-protection through a large security firm.
“You can tell, when you look at a class, who wants to learn and these guys really wanted to learn what we had to teach them,” Barlag said.
The Marines wanted to teach them as much as they were willing to learn, but the language barrier was hard to overcome at first.
“It’s hard to converse through an interpreter,” said Cpl. Dustin Engelken, a Wichita, Kan., native, and a squad leader with the section.
The Marines started explaining PSD tactics through examples and using hand motions, which the Iraqis quickly understood.
“They picked it up almost as fast as we did about a year ago,” Barlag said.
Iraqis watched Marines perform scenarios where their ‘principle,’ or VIP, is being targeted and the Marines had to quickly move him to safety. Once they practiced their actions slowly, the Iraqi PSD shadowed the Marines’ moves during their practical-application scenarios.
“I had them do everything slow at first but they ended up doing better than average,” said Cpl. Jose Corona, a Los Angeles native, and vehicle commander with the section.
Al Qa’im’s large residential areas meant that the training was focused on security in confined spaces such as one-way streets, houses, and arrivals and departures.
“They are now going to think to themselves, ‘Why is that car door open? Or why is that man’s arms crossed?’” Corona said.
The Iraqi PSD was hand picked from Iraqi Army units. They all knew how to shoot the AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, but most had never touched a pistol before their PSD training.
“They did well with the rifle-training because of their past experience but it took them some getting used to the pistol,” said Cpl. Adam Bailey, a Virginia Beach, Va., native, and vehicle commander with the section.
The Iraqi police use Glock pistols because their plastic bodies are inexpensive and easy to clean but the PSD needed a weapon that would hit its target every time. That weapon was the single-action Browning high-powered pistol.
“The Browning is more forgiving to everyone’s hands while the Glock will fit some people’s hands and others it won’t,” Bailey said.
The PSD was given classes on how to fix their new pistols and how to properly maintain them as well.
The three day course ended but the MAP will be training more PSD teams in the future. This PSD not only protects a person, it also protects the very foundation of the Iraqi court system: justice.