Saturday, September 1, 2007

Iraqi Provincial Volunteers help secure Radwaniyah

Multi-National Force - Iraq:

Saturday, 01 September 2007
By Spc. Ben Washburn
4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Public Affairs

BAGHDAD — The goal has always been to return control back to the Iraqis. In recent months, an increasing number of Iraqis have stood up to the challenge of reclaiming their country from terrorists and insurgents by joining the Iraqi Provincial Volunteers.

A trip with the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Briagde, 1st Infantry Division, attached to 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., into Radwaniyah provides a glimpse of what is happening not just there, but in other parts of the country. There, IPVs are manning checkpoints along the roads to stop al-Qaida and insurgents from operating in their area.

Their checkpoints are often simple. A few sandbags piled up into a makeshift bunker. Some rubble or scrap metal pulled across the street to force cars to slow down. Whatever supplies they can scrounge up, with a bit of assistance from the Coalition force, is all it takes for them to secure their roads. The IPVs work throughout the day, through the heat and the sun, to secure their own neighborhoods.

“It’s a big step towards giving control back to the people. I feel a lot safer.” said Spearfish, S.D., native Spc. Russell Harmon, a team leader with Company C, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, attached to Company E, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment.

“There’s a lot more of them. They’re a lot more organized,” said Pfc. Anthony Mondelli, a gunner with Company C, 1-28 Inf. The IPVs are making progress, despite their limited resources. As the time passes, they will be more able to protect their roads and neighborhoods. They’ve done a great job so far, forcing the insurgents to stay away.

“We drive around now and don’t even get shot at. I think it’s because of them,” the gunner and native from Copiague, N.Y., said.

Because the IPVs are from the area they guard, they know who is and who is not from the area. That’s a big advantage that the Coalition force doesn’t have, and is one reason the IPVs are better able to control the checkpoints than anyone brought in from outside the area, one non-commissioned officer said.

It’s that knowledge which has forced the insurgents to stay away. Sgt. 1st Class John McGlothin, of Company C, 1-28 Inf., said that’s why they are effective.

“The reason it works so well with them is they know the people who live in their area. So if we get someone that’s not from the area around, they’re going to be the first to know it,” said the platoon sergeant from Bradford, Ohio.

The IPVs do more than just secure the roads to keep insurgents out. They have proven reliable in preventing improvised explosive devices.

“We don’t have to concentrate on route clearance as much,” Harmon said. By allowing the Coalition force to concentrate more on finding insurgents and weapons caches, the IPVs have proven themselves to be a combat multiplier for the Coalition force.

The residents of Radwaniyah also see the increased security, feeling more comfortable out of their homes and on the roads.

“A big difference is we see people out on the roads. When we first got here we saw a lot less people,” Mondelli said. The people realize that violence doesn’t have to be a way of life.

“I think they finally realize there could be hope for the country, and they’re just trying to do their part,” said Pfc. Christopher Novak, a gunner from Stewart, Fl., assigned the 1-28 Inf.

The IPVs have done a great job since they began manning checkpoints.

“So far they’ve been really successful, very few incidents since we stood them up. Things seem to be getting quieter,” McGlothin said.

Despite the success, the most important aspect is that it’s the Iraqis taking charge of security and allowing the Coalition force to step back and assist where necessary. Radwaniyah is just one area, but is a sign of hope for all of Iraq.

Mondelli summed it up with one sentence.

“It’s been a dramatic change since they’ve been here.”