Jan 27, 2008
With 1-30 Infantry Reg. south of Baghdad
Patrol Base Al-Mizan:
We were awakened our first night at this forward base by the sound of the machine guns pounding from the Apaches flying overhead. This is Patrol Base Al-Mizan, opened two days ago by the 1-30 Infantry Regiment, LTC Ken Adgie commanding.
Out of Fort Stewart, Ga., Bravo Company and HAC Company started building this forward base, the latest in a series, just two days ago. Taking over an abandoned house, the Soldiers have been filling Hesco barriers, putting electricity and lights into their new FOB, pushing out into the countryside, and working on expanding their very aggressive and very competent Concerned Local Citizens group in the opening days of Operation Coliseum.
But up on the roof, talking to the Soldiers manning the sandbagged watch-points, they made the point that 1-30 is the new government in the area. “We’re out patrolling all the time,” said SPC William Terry, “we’ve been fighting since we arrived here in June.” “What you’re hearing tonight is no big deal,” added Pv2 Mike Kelly,” it’s just terrain denial.”
But terrain denial is a big deal to the locals, who have suffered terribly from the lack of governance and attention by the Government of Iraq. We are approximately 15 miles south and east of Baghdad in an area known as Arab Jabour. The area is agricultural, fairly poor, and 99% Sunni. The al-Jabouri’s are the main tribe, and not only has there has been no functioning government since Saddam’s fall in April 2003, but until 1-30 IN, the last of the “surge brigades” arrived, there was no American presence either.
The result was four years of terror and killing.
For a while Jaysh-al-Islam (JAI), a Sunni insurgent group, tried to control the area. But when AQI emerged from the local unemployed and began denying basic services like clean water and food, and started their too-common practices of kidnapping, torture and killing, they drove JAI out of the area.
Not long ago AQI waited outside a mosque in order to deliver a lesson: when the service was completed they took the 10 brothers and sisters of a Concerned Local Citizen and executed them in front of their brother. In another recent incident, four locals were beheaded. With such total intimidation, the net effect is that the AQI members need to be killed for the local citizens to feel that they are truly secure – and for the locals to feel secure, then a relatively permanent base needs to be built in a conspicuous spot so the locals will know that the Americans and their Concerned Local Citizens are available to defend them as necessary.
Adgie’s soldiers have been fighting since their May-June arrival “in-country.” They pushed south and built their main base, FOB Murray in June, took over & expanded Patrol Base Red, built PB Hawkes, built OP 3, and now Al-Mazin. In the next week they’ll build another base another mile or so south.
The mission is similar to that which was so successful in Anbar; it’s “Clear-Hold-Build” – and then push further out south the countryside and do it again.
“This has been an extremely kinetic fight”, said Adgie. “We’ve had 14 Soldiers KIA’s, fired some 800 mortar rounds, and called in 2,000 rounds 155mm howitzer fire from the gun battery in Mahmudiyah.” Adgie was not exaggerating; up on the roof SPC Terry, Pvt2 Kelly and I watched and listened as Apaches buzzed thru the night air; off in the distance we listened to their machine guns firing, along with the subsequent explosions from the IED’s they exploded.
With security provided by 1-30 Infantry, plus 1,140 Concerned Local Citizens providing a very decent local security, Adgie is able to provide the necessary services that most definitely win the “hearts & mind” campaign that helps solidify the local’s turn away from AQI.
“We’ve done about 10 MedCaps where we examine and treat the locals,” explained LTC Sam Lee, the battalion doctor.” As the security improves, the locals gain enough confidence to want to bring us their children.” “In the town of Al-Buaytha, we’ve-opened the Ar-Nasr Clinic, Adgie added, “and it’s staffed by local Iraqi doctors who returned because the security is better now.”
The improvement in security also helps the economic rebuilding efforts; the local gas station is open for the first time in 2 years, four of five fresh-water pumping stations are operating, and the canal system is bringing water to the farmers. In his six month tenure here Adgie and his Soldiers have rebuilt and improved the road system, and the schools have also reopened.
In his six month tenure in this AO, his Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT) has approved 56 micro-grants, and has approx 100 additional applications currently under review. Between the micro-grants, and hiring contractors for the roads and schools, Adgie is the largest employer in the area.
An unexpected yet successful corollary to these programs – all of which help win the hearts and minds of the locals, is that many of the locals enthusiastically join up as members of the Concerned Locals Citizens; one does not have to be a Shia or a Sunni to want to defend your home and family, and LTC Adgie says that some of his CLC’s are now amongst of his most ferocious fighters.
“The CLC’s have knowledge of the terrain, the towns, and the people,” Adgie explained.” They go out on patrol with my men, and frankly make it safer for us.” Adgie lets his CLC’s – all of whom are from these little villages - name the bases; Al-Mazin translates to “Scales of Justice.”