1st Cavalry News
Iraqi citizens take part in their own security
By Spc. Shea Butler
7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
ABU GHRAIB, Iraq – They have no formal training. They don’t wear uniforms. They have no title, rank, or position. They don’t even receive a paycheck. They are strictly volunteers, volunteering their time, sometimes even their lives, for the security of their nahia, or district.
These volunteers of Nasr Wa Salam stood guard at checkpoints in sweat soaked apparel and second hand protective gear with their own personal weapons in hand, ready for anything under the unforgiving Iraqi sun. These volunteers are living the old saying “Anything worth having is worth fighting for.”
The Nasr Wa Salam volunteers got the chance to show their dedication to Maj. Gen. Paul Newton, Multi-National Forces – Iraq, Forces Security Engagement Cell, deputy commanding general, during his first visit to Abu Ghraib Aug. 14 with Col. Paul Funk II, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. Nasr Wa Salam is the largest neighborhood in Abu Ghraib.
Their hard work and dedication was apparent in the crowded local markets and the traffic on the street, said Lt. Col. Kurt Pinkerton, commander of 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment. That was not the case a few months ago. The markets were bare and people were not out on the streets in early May.
The Coalition leaders met with Abu Azzam, the man in charge of the volunteers, to discuss progress in Nasr Wa Salam and goals for the future.
“Abu Azzam brings people who are sitting on the fence about the government to the table so they can achieve the goal of one Iraq,” Pinkerton said. “He finds people who want to participate in a legitimate government.”
Not all of Abu Azzam’s volunteers have a clean wrap sheet. Some of them are ex-insurgents, but have since signed statements swearing their allegiance to the Iraqi government and condemning Al Qaeda, Pinkerton explained. The walls of checkpoints in the Abu Ghraib neighbood are decorated with pieces of paper stating people’s loyalties to their country and their sins against it. It’s more than just signed documents; these men are out there sweating and working hard for security.
The volunteers are useful because they know the area better than anyone and they know the people well. They know who the bad guys are, especially since some of them used to be insurgents, Pinkerton said.
Though Pinkerton, a San Jose, Calif., native, said the volunteer effort has been effective, he is moving Iraqi Police into the area for better security and better equipment. This way the volunteers won’t be stretched so thin.
“What the volunteers are doing is great, but a government needs to be run by government organizations. The volunteer effort is just a starting point and extra reinforcement,” Pinkerton said.
Adding Iraqi Security Forces is only the beginning in making Nasr Wa Salam a safer place. Pinkerton and Azzam are looking to build a hospital, and work on sanitation and construction projects.
“My end goal is to leave Nasr Wa Salam with a local functioning government and a tribal council that meets regularly,” Pinkerton said. “I don’t want it to be Shia and Sunni — just one Iraq.”
Lt. Col. Kurt Pinkerton (left), commander of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, meets with Abu Azzam (right), a leader of the Nasr Wa Salam volunteers, to discuss progress and goals of the community Aug. 14. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Shea Butler, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
A Soldier with 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, hands a local volunteering at a checkpoint a bottle of cold water in Nasr Wa Salam, Iraq Aug. 14. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Shea Butler, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
I know I am preaching to the choir… But, by some chance, someone drops by who is not convinced that our Troops are accomplishing great feats…Here is just one more post, in which the Iraqi people are showing the world that they are willing to fight for a better way of life.
It is our duty to reiterate to our leaders in Washington; Let our men and women in the Military do their jobs! This is not about the vote, it is about doing what is right.