They are lining up to serve in their communities!
1st Cavalry NewsAdhamiyah residents join local guard force to improve neighborhood security
By Sgt. Mike Pryor
2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs
BAGHDAD – It’s just after 10 a.m., and a large crowd has gathered outside the Adhamiyah District Advisory Council building. Dozens of men mob the entrance.
Normally, the DAC Hall is where citizens come to complain about potholes and power outages, and where wailing mothers come to plead for the release of their detained sons. But the men gathered here this morning didn’t come to complain about problems, they came to be part of a solution.
The men are all here to apply for jobs with Adhamiyah’s new Critical Infrastructure Guard Force, a security force made up of local men that will protect area schools, hospitals, fuel stations, and government buildings.
In Adhamiyah, a Sunni enclave in east Baghdad that has long been a haven for insurgents, U.S. and Iraqi forces have struggled to make residents more active partners in security. But the surprising embrace of the guard force is just one of a growing number of signs that Adhamiyah residents are starting to take a more aggressive role in protecting their community, say U.S. Soldiers based in the area.
“They’re standing up, and I think it shows they’re ready to take their neighborhood back into their own hands,” said Columbia, Md., native Capt. Albert Marckwardt, commander of Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.
The first 30 CIGF guards completed training Aug. 20, and will receive assignments within the next week. More than 400 applications for guard force jobs have been received so far, and the total force is expected to number over 750, said Homewood, Ill., native 2nd Lt. Brian C. Smith, the Squadron’s Iraqi Security Forces liaison officer.
The CIGF has been met with enthusiasm by the people of Adhamiyah – as evidenced by the turn out of job-seekers at the DAC Aug. 18. More than 50 hopefuls turned up, some waiting for several hours to fill out the paperwork and put in their applications.
“The first time we did this, we had maybe 15 people show up. But the word got around and they’re starting to really show up now. They just keep coming,” said Modesto, Calif., native Sgt. 1st Class Chhay Mao, a platoon sergeant with B Troop who was helping screen applicants.
The vetting took place upstairs, in a stuffy room filled with long tables. The applicants were brought in small groups, some of the men shy, others cocky and laughing, to file by and give their information to the Soldiers at the tables. One Soldier asked Mohammed Said Ahmad, a muscular 25-year-old with a baseball cap on backwards, why he wanted to join the CIGF.
“We are here because we want to secure Adhamiyah for our kids and our families,” Ahmad said passionately.
When the Soldier asked the next man in line, 49 year-old Talib Hussein, Hussein’s reply was a little more matter-of-fact.
“I have two wives,” Hussein said wearily. “I need money.”
Both motivations are valid as far as Coalition Forces are concerned. Smith said that the CIGF program is as much about providing jobs as it is about providing security.
“Honestly, it’s about 50-50,” said Smith.
“For security in Adhamiyah, you need these guys to work,” said 1st Sgt. Muhammed Hassan Ali, the Iraqi NCO in charge of training new CIGF recruits. Ali said residents with good paying jobs would be less tempted to take insurgent money for planting bombs or throwing grenades at patrols.
As for the potential problems created by having another armed paramilitary group in the area, the Squadron has taken measures to mitigate the risk, Smith said. All applicants must be fingerprinted and undergo an iris scan, with the information cross-referenced against names in an extensive criminal data base.
Candidates who pass the background check then take part in a five-day training program to teach them basic marksmanship, weapons maintenance, vehicle and personnel search techniques, codes of conduct and rules of engagement, said Smith.
The training takes place at Coalition Outpost Apache, built on the ruins of one of Saddam Hussein’s opulent palaces on the banks of the Tigris. Noncommissioned officers from the Iraqi Army are the instructors, with U.S. Soldiers in an advisory role.
The first 30 recruits attended the training Aug. 16 -20. On Aug. 17, the group was out on the firing range. A few had previous military experience, and handled their AK-47s like old pros. Others, especially the younger men, needed some coaching, but Ali and his small staff helped them along. The recruits who finished first went over to sit on the steps in the shade. As they smoked cigarettes and wondered what was for lunch, some of the men noted how strange it was that they were training on the grounds of Saddam’s palace, a place where – in previous times – Adhamiyah residents “disappeared.”
One new recruit, Ahmed Raja Al Assan, said the CIGF should have been developed years ago. Assan said having a security force made up of local people would make it easier to catch terrorists who try to infiltrate Adhamiyah.
“We know who is good and who is bad,” he said.
After the marksmanship training was over, white-haired Thabit Numan, one of the oldest of the new recruits, came up to Smith and Ali to shake their hands.
Before coming to the training, many in the group had been scared, Numan explained. Some had expected to be mistreated by the Iraqi Soldiers. But instead they had been shown respect and treated like brothers, the old man said.
In a few days, training would be over, and the men would get their first mission.
“We are ready,” Numan said, before turning and walking off towards the palace.
Miami, Fla., native Pfc. Emmanuel Ramnanan from Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, looks on as Cpl. Ganem Najim of the Iraqi Army’s 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 11th Infantry Division, coaches trainees on proper firing techniques during a marksmanship training exercise for the first 30 members of Adhamiyah’s Critical Infrastructure Guard Force at Coalition Outpost Apache in eastern Baghdad Aug. 17. The guard force is to be made up of Adhamiyah residents who will take over security from the Iraqi Army at sites like hospitals, schools, and government buildings, allowing the Iraqi Army to concentrate on pursuing terrorists. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)
Ludowici, Ga., native Spc. Dustin Brewster (second from right), and Modesto, Calif., native Sgt. 1st Class Chhay Mao of Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, help keep order as Adhamiyah residents line up outside the District Council building Aug. 18 to apply for jobs with the new Critical Infrastructure Guard Force. The security force, with members drawn from the local area, will protect school, hospitals, fuel stations, and other government buildings. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)
Roanoke, Va., native Staff Sgt. William Schilling of Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, takes a fingerprint scan of a man applying for a job with Adhamiyah’s new Critical Infrastructure Guard Force Aug. 18. The security force, with members drawn from the local area, will protect school, hospitals, fuel stations, and other government buildings. All the applicants undergo a thorough screening process, including fingerprint and retina scans, in order to make sure their backgrounds are clean. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)
Parma, Ohio native Cpl. Eric Chenevare of Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, takes an iris scan of a man applying for a job with Adhamiyah’s new Critical Infrastructure Guard Force during screening at the Adhamiyah District Council Aug. 18.. The security force, with members drawn from the local area, will protect school, hospitals, fuel stations, and other government buildings. All the applicants undergo a thorough screening process, including fingerprint and iris scans, in order to make sure their backgrounds are clean. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)