Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 21 May 2008

From MNF-I, ‘Sons of Iraq’ train to protect own communities.

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq – Throughout Anbar serves a unique group of men whose sole mission is to protect their community.

Since the summer of 2007, Sons of Iraq have answered the call to work the seams between conventional Iraqi Security Forces, augmenting the combined effort to deny our enemy a safe haven in Anbar.

Currently about 5,000 in number, they are trained by Marines on how to protect their neighborhoods and people.

“I do this for all of my village,” said Mohamad Hassan Dakheel, a checkpoint guard from Alnu-Amiyeh’s Sons of Iraq, May 15. “We’re all safe because we all work together.”

The Sons of Iraq, or SoI, are paid volunteers who live in the areas they guard.

“They’re responsible for identifying who’s not supposed to be in the area of operations,” said Staff Sgt. Jennifer K. Richardson, platoon commander, Mobile Assault Platoon, Guardian Company, I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group (Forward). “Every 500 to 800 meters in the Alnu-Amiyeh area there’s a SoI checkpoint. These are great for keeping insurgents out of the area.”

The men from the local area divided into teams for each checkpoint, with rotating shifts throughout the day, explained Richardson.

“They let us know when there are people in the area that shouldn’t be,” said Richardson. “Then they report to us what they look like and what they’re driving.”

Thanks to the SoI, the people of their villages live in a safer and relatively violence-free environment.

“They don’t get paid a lot of money for this, and it’s not easy for them to support us when they get threatened and their lives are on the line,” Richardson said. “It’s really admirable what they do.”

Though the SoI are paid about $150 dollars a month, most also make money through other means.

“My payment will last for only a week, but I also make some money by farming,” said Dakheel.

Since most had jobs to begin with, most of the Iraqi volunteers said they did not join for the money.

“I do it because I learn from the Marines how to make it safe in our country,” said Eiad Abid Sathan, a checkpoint guard from Alnu-Amiyeh’s SoI. “When the Marines leave, we can keep security in our country because of the training.”

The Marines of Guardian Co., based at Camp Fallujah, have been training the SoI, not only to be better guardsmen, but ultimately to aid them in their efforts to become Iraqi Police.

“The goal these guys have is to become police,” Richardson said. “Everything we teach these guys is geared towards making them IP’s, from shooting positions and shooting fundamentals, to the physical fitness test.”

Today the Marines went over the basics of handling the AK-47 assault rifle, practiced the fitness test, and also gave a short martial arts class to the Iraqis.

“The training is very good, because we have to be very strong and have power and know how to attack the enemy,” said Sathan.

The training is given so they can better protect their communities and continue to take more responsibility for security from the Coalition forces.

“I see there is a terrorist destroying my country, and I want to stop him,” said Wajdi Mohammed Selaman, a Fallujah SoI. “We are a peace-loving people.”