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Airmen assist Iraqi police during checkpoint inspection

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joseph Kapinos
  • AFCENT Combat Camera Team
A team of Security Forces Defenders, known as the "Rough Riders," glance out the small windows of their armored vehicle as it passes over the streets of Baghdad. They are on their way to rendezvous with their counterparts in the Iraqi Police.

Assigned to the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron's Detachment 2, their mission is to work with the Iraqi Police and help them become integral to the safety, security and future of the country.

It is a mission these professionals relish.

The team began preparing for this trip out into Baghdad early in the morning by prepping their vehicles and gear. They also gathered for a mission brief, covering everything from intelligence to weather. Everyone pays close attention to the information being presented. They have to. Their lives may depend upon it.

"By far, this is the most dangerous mission we do here in the area," said Capt. Richard Martin, Det. 2 operations officer.

Today's mission is typical of many that Det. 2 undertakes. It will involve going into a neighborhood and dismounting from armored vehicles to conduct patrols by foot, taking note of things like where the local Iraqi Police have set up checkpoints.

"It is important for the overall situational awareness of the IP leaders," the captain said.

The Airmen use their training and technology to keep them safe while on a dismounted patrol. They can also rely on assistance from a slew of support agencies, if necessary, available to them via radio through a Tactical Operations Center.

"The TOC tracks all of our movements through radio communication and through the Blue Force Tracker, which is a satellite-based system," said Senior Airman Justin Hovis, Det. 2 radio operator. "They can also get us air support, either medical or attack, if we need it."

Successfully and safely operating in a dynamic environment like the streets of Baghdad requires the attention of the entire team. Extra responsibility falls on the squad and fire team leaders.

"This type of mission is so important because of the impact they are having on the reduction of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices," said Staff Sergeant David Zondor, Det. 2 fire team leader. "Having the IPs continually inspecting the vehicles that come through is really having an impact."

Sergeant Zondor worked previously as a mentor for the IPs in 2006 and has seen significant improvement in how capable the police have become over the last couple of years.
"Prior to this deployment, the police wouldn't take much initiative to search vehicles or set up these types of checkpoints" said Sergeant Zondor. "Now we are seeing them take control of the situations, searching vehicles on their own without our prompting them and communicating between the checkpoints.
It has turned around 180 degrees," he added.
Another mission completed, with all the checkpoints for the day evaluated and marked; it is time for the "Rough Riders" to return to base. It was a successful mission on many levels: Inspection of vital security assets complete, Iraqi police out in the neighborhoods patrolling and meeting the citizens, and providing good information for senior IP officials.
But most importantly, it was successful because everyone came back safely.
The Airmen will rest up and prepare for the next mission, secure in the knowledge they are making a difference here in Iraq. These "Defenders" are dedicated to helping the Iraqi police grow to become a functioning, independent police force and will continue their mission until the mission is complete.