Combat Outpost Soldiers thwart kidnapping, save would-be victim
By Spc. L.B. Edgar
7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BAGHDAD – The sounds of muffled screaming and pounding from a car trunk catches the attention of alert troops patrolling the streets. Upon careful inspection of the vehicle, a kidnapped Iraqi is uncovered and liberated from his vehicular confinement.
On the chaotic streets in the Ghazaliya district of Baghdad, victims of violence are common. That’s the environment Soldiers of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, operate. They help patrol these streets and man the first Combat Outpost (COP) in Baghdad.
On a disruption patrol the Soldiers of Co. C received fire from a rooftop. They subsequently positively identified the threat and returned fire. After unsuccessfully pursuing their attacker, the platoon leader observed suspicious activity around a car. When the Soldiers approached the vehicle, the suspicious figures surrounding it scattered. AK-47 magazines and black hoods inside the vehicle prompted a thorough search, which revealed its contents: a human being, said Staff Sgt. Shelby Clement, tank commander for Co. C’s 2nd Platoon.
“In the trunk of the car there was an Iraqi national who had been bound and blindfolded. I’m sure the intent was not good for him,” Clement, a native of Hartville, Mo., explained. “This time, we did something and were actually able to save a guy’s life.”
Every day Soldiers of Baghdad’s first and only COP patrol the streets of Ghazaliya, there are opportunities to make a difference in the community, which is home to more than 50,000 people, said Capt. Erik Peterson, the company commander.
“I’m the only COP in Baghdad right now. I’m the first COP in Baghdad,” said Peterson, who hails from Chesterton, Ind.
The COP is essentially several homes surrounded by barriers and fortified with concertina wire and thousands of sand bags. Dubbed COP “Casino” because Co. C is known as the “Wild Cards,” the outlying base for operations houses U.S. Soldiers as well as Iraqi Army (IA) troops, said Spc. Michael Anderson, the company’s radio transmission operator.
Since the coalition moved inside the Ghazaliya community approximately three weeks ago, the residents have been more forthcoming in providing information, either in person or through the local tip line, said the native of Bay Minette, Ala.
“A lot of people have told us they are glad we moved into the neighborhood and they feel safer (since) we are here,” Anderson explained. “Since we live here, I think more of them are compelled to come down here.”
Every day the Soldiers of Co. C and their Iraqi counterparts are making the COP safer and more livable. As the Soldiers build up the COP, the residents are increasingly aware of its permanence, Clement said.
“I think they’re getting more comfortable knowing we’re here and we’re here for awhile. We’re not just going to blow through once in awhile here and not (let them) see our presence,” Clement explained. “I think the whole intent is to show our presence in this neighborhood – to get the locals to know we’re here to (increase) cooperation with the Iraqi Army.”
While the Soldiers are trying to train the Iraqi troops to perform missions independently, they are also trying to improve relations between the residents and their armed forces, Clement said.
To this end, Soldiers are increasingly supporting and advising the IA, Anderson said.
“I see them taking the lead more,” Anderson explained. “Before we leave, I can see them being fully functional and being able to do this themselves as long as we continue to work with them and they advance like they have been.”
For now, Soldiers patrol the streets of Ghazaliya daily enforcing the rule of law and improving the capabilities of the IA one step at a time.
“We do want to return and see our loved ones. We know the sooner we can get the situation sorted out, the sooner we can go home. We know it’s going to take awhile, so we’ve got to stick it out longer,” Clement said. “As long as we know the people back home care about us, that will keep us motivated.”
Saving the lives of Iraqi civilians is motivation as well.
Grand Rapids, Mich., native Pfc. William Davis, and Lowell, Mass., native Pfc. John Landry, both riflemen with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pull security on the rooftop of the Ghazaliya district Combat Outpost (COP) in Baghdad, Jan. 28. The COP houses Iraqi Army troops and U.S. Soldiersw, who maintain security in the neighborhood. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. L.B. Edgar, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
Mexico City native Sgt. Segrej Michaud, an armorer for Company C, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, spends a moment with a local resident of the Ghazaliya district in Baghdad, Jan. 29. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. L.B. Edgar, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
Spring Hill, Fla., native Erik Peterson, commander, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, talks with a local resident after responding to an attack on the Muhagren Mosque in Baghdad’s Ghazaliya district Jan. 29. The response to the attack came from a the first Combat Outpost in Baghdad, which aims to secure the surrounding neighborhood. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. L.B. Edgar, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)