Saturday, March 8, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 8 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, Sons of Iraq Turn in Cache.

FOB HAMMER — The Sons of Iraq (SoI) of Sabbah Nissan, a village southeast of Baghdad, recently brought in a large weapons cache to Soldiers of Battery A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery at FOB Hammer.

This was the most recent of 13 weapon caches the SoI have brought to Battery A since the inception of the SoI program in Sabbah Nissan.

The cache consisted of 28 rocket-propelled grenade motors, five 125 mm artillery rounds, two 60 mm mortars, one 125 mm HEAT round, one 82 mm mortar, one rocket-propelled grenade warhead, two fuses and a 155 mm round.

“The Sons of Iraq have given us two caches this week,” said Spc. Andrew Watson, from La Porte, Ind., Battery A. “They have given us about one a week, but this was one of the largest.”

Watson said that the Sabbah Nissan’s SoI performance has improved consistently since they began working with the battery.

“At first, they weren’t very organized,” he said. “Many of their leaders had previously served in the Iraqi Army and they have used that training to instill more professionalism in the group. They have been trained and have come a long way from where they were. They are a lot more proficient in everything they do now. They have seen how we set up water drops and vehicle searches and are doing a good job of doing those on their own now.”

Pfc. Robert Meadows, from Jacksontown, Ohio, Battery A, said residents in the area have become more comfortable with 3rd HBCT Soldiers and believes that has allowed Battery A and the SoI to find more caches based on information provided by them.

“The people here are very friendly,” Meadows said. “The children in the area wait for us along the side of the road and salute when we drive by. The adults wave when we are out. I’d say we have a good relationship.”

Many of the Soldiers believe the area is improving and will continue to do so in the future.

“I think things here will keep improving after we leave,” said Spc. Alex Katsan, from Grafton, W. Va., Battery A. “We are helping them less and less every time we go out. I can see them standing up and doing things on their own without our help.”

Watson pointed out the SoI improvement as an example of progress happening in the area without the 3rd HBCT’s assistance.

“Sheik Kassam (leader of the SoI) is willing to work with us because he knows that we will do what we say we will and we are only here to back up what he is trying to do,” Watson said.

The good relationship that Battery A has built with the local population, he said, will only help further the progress of the area.

“The people here are working hard to secure their area and improve their quality of life,” Watson said. “Anything we have done to help them has been appreciated. I think they will continue to turn in caches and keep the area safe so they can keep moving forward.”

The 789th Ordnance Company (EOD), from Ft. Benning, Ga., currently attached to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, secured the cache for future disposal.