Saturday, August 9, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 9 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, Vigilance in Community Provides Peace.

BAGHDAD — Upon the wall of their operations cell, a painting depicts a lion head with a banner reading, "Vigilance is Excellence."

However, for Task Force Vigilant, a patrolling and quick-reaction team for Multi-National Division - Center, vigilance also stands for peace.

"If we weren't doing patrols, it wouldn't be as calm as it is," said Pvt. Adam Burrell, a team driver.

TF Vigilant patrols neighborhoods near the Baghdad International Airport to ensure the security of the local community. They do this through housing assessments and night patrols aimed at keeping streets clear during curfew hours outside of the Victory Base Complex perimeters.

"In the end, we are making a difference because we're establishing control," said Pvt. William Tulloch, a team patrolman and driver.

The majority of the people in the community work for the airport. The villages provide the people with housing near work at affordable living rates.

In order to continually improve living conditions, TF Vigilant Soldiers introduce themselves to households and ask household members to fill out a survey. If there are ever issues needing resolved, such as improving sewage or electricity, the team coordinates with higher headquarters or their civil affairs counterpart.

During their housing assessments, TF Vigilant Soldiers meet with the local assistant mayor and interview homeowners to evaluate living conditions. The assistant mayor will often invite the Vigilant Soldiers into his house to share chai tea and conversations about his family and the community.

The patrol team also gathers the people's opinions on the work of Iraqi Police, the government's involvement, their job satisfaction and coalition presence.

"Most of the time, the people like us being there. They like the security," Tapia said.

In the past, the Vigilant teams have also been involved with some clearing of buildings to ensure no squatters are living out of abandoned hotels or other structures. When they do find people living there, they will sometimes coordinate to find them jobs, either on Victory or at the airport.

When the Vigilant Soldiers aren't on patrol, they serve as a quick reaction force. The QRF element reacts to any indirect fire attacks and provides support to patrolling units in case of an emergency. Lately and luckily, the streets have been quiet. During these calmer times, the QRF spends most of its time training - always ready to react. Fortunately, these days, the need is less frequent.