Jan 10, 2008

Marines in Baghdadi - by Cpl Adam Johnston

Iraqi Police Take Over the Fight in Baghdadi

The war in Iraq is winding down. As the Marines in Anbar Province help organize 5-K races in Ramadi, a Youth Soccer League in Fallujah, and other events that are as non Marine-like as they could have ever imagined, in the western part of Iraq they’re turning over battle-space to the Iraqi Security forces.

But let’s be serious: This is Iraq, and there will never be a perfect security situation. But as the Iraqi people want to regain control of their own country, and their own future, their need for the Marine Corps will dwindle as their own forces improve in professionalism and enthusiasm.

Today’s article is sent to us by Cpl Adam Johnston. Writing from RCT-2’s PAO shop in al-Asad, he sent us this dispatch yesterday.

Cpl. Adam Johnston
Combat Correspondent – Regimental Combat Team 2

COP BAGHDADI, Iraq – How many Marines does it take to secure Baghdadi? Last year, it took an entire company. Then, as the situation improved, that number dropped to a platoon. And now, with the onset of 2008, the grand total is zero.

The Marines of 2nd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, have completely pulled out of Command Outpost Baghdadi. To the pleasure and pride of the local citizens, their replacements are already hard at work.

In a monumental step toward Iraqi sovereignty, the Baghdadi Police force has taken sole responsibility of security within the city limits. They are the first to do so in all of Al Anbar Province.

“In the past, battalions were measured on how many battle positions they established during a deployment,” said Lt. Col. J.J. Dill, commanding officer, 1st Bn., 7th Marines. “It showed they were moving out into the community, partnering with (Iraqi Security Forces) to make things happen. But in this stage of the counterinsurgency battle, it’s not how many we put up – it’s how many we take down.”

The transfer of authority comes as a direct result of the Baghdadi IP validation, which is determined by U.S. and coalition forces.

“It’s a checklist of where they’re at,” said Capt. Craig T. Douglas, the company commander of Co. A, 1st Bn., 7th Marines. “Can they run their own investigations, conduct security patrols, etc.? Are they self-sufficient?”

In control of their own battle-space, the Baghdadi IPs face their toughest challenge yet. Can they do it alone?

“The IPs of Baghdadi are ready to take over,” Douglas said. “They want the bad guys out of here just as much as we do. With logistical support from the government of Iraq, they should be ok.”

If, however, Baghdadi should need emergency assistance, the Marines of 1st Bn, 7th Marines, won’t be far behind.

“The COP is in the middle of our (area of operation), so we’ll still be in an over-watch capacity,” said Douglas. “But they know that one day, we’ll be gone. They’ll need to be able to do things for themselves.”

The building itself, upon completion of the new police station, will become host to city council meetings and other government functions.

“Many people back home think the Anbar awakening happened overnight,” Dill said. “But where we’re at today is the culmination of four years worth of hard work and dedication by Marines and Iraqis alike. I want this city to stop looking like it’s under siege. This is a huge step toward the return to normalcy.”

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