History is Now in Iraq!
Friends, today is the day Iraq, United States, and our coalition forces allies have made history with the formal deadline for our combat Soldiers to leave the major cities of Iraq. Here in Baghdad, there are celebrations going on. The main one is in Baghdad's Zawra Park where Iraqis are dancing in the streets and setting off fireworks. Other celebrations are planned throughout the day.
Now, it is up to Iraqi Forces to secure these cities and it will be a major challenge, as it was for coalition forces over the last six years. It is up to the Iraqis to decide how bad they want their own freedom. We wish them the very best and will pray for their independence.
In the meantime, our mission is far from over, but we continue to make progress. We will continue to support our Iraqi partners in the cities while disrupting the enemies in the countryside. The key words in that statement are SUPPORT our partners ... and DISRUPT the enemy. So as you can see, there is still more work to be done.
Our forces have moved to the outskirts of the cities in the Qadas as I mentioned in an earlier blog entry. Our jobs will continue just as normal, just in a different area. There's plenty of work to be done. We are still training Iraqis and advising them on route sanitation and route clearing missions to detect IEDs. We are still conducting engineer missions by building living quarters and other life sustaining facilities like dining facilities for our Soldiers. We are still helping the Iraqis with quality control and quality assurance to make sure that public works projects are completed to keep their lights on, the sewer systems operating, and the water running.
I will leave you with a story that I wrote earlier this week to show how we continue to train Iraqi Forces. We are now training the Iraqi National Police who stand on the frontlines now more than ever to try to keep themselves and their citizens safe.
Take care and God bless.
By Lt. Col. Pat Simon
225th Eng. Bde. PAO, MND-B
BAGHDAD - Playing with video game remote controls that power motorized robots may seem like a fun way to start the day.
For ten Iraqi National Police officers, this arcade experience is a critical part of training at a new engineer training academy at Camp Liberty, Iraq.
Members of 1st Mechanized Brigade, 2nd National Police wrapped up three days of training on clearing routes of improvised explosive devices, medical operations, and robotics at the Task Force Iron Claw Academy, 24 June.
The class, sponsored by the 225th Engineer Brigade, is the first time Iraqi National Police learned important engineer tactics at the academy.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Ray, Baton Rouge,La., an instructor at the academy, said the NP officers were very attentive because of what is at stake for Iraq's future- security.
"The National Police conduct route clearance operations now. They see the threats now," said Ray. "They will be able to take this experience back to their units and run their operations more effectively."
Ray said the robotics portion of the training may have been a popular way to end the course, but his students understood the serious nature of using robots to track down killer IEDs.
"They can stand up on their own and perform independent security missions," Ray said.
Iraqi Maj. Hussein, commander of the 1st Mech. Bde., 2nd NP agreed. Hussein said the Iraqi National Police appreciate this training because they are a visible force that provides security for the Iraqi people and for themselves.
"Now it gives us a lot of responsibility," Hussein said. "We have to prove our capability to protect the Iraqi population."
Hussein is also very cognizant of the June 30 deadline for Coalition combat forces to leave the major cities. He said engineer training will give his officers added confidence and give the people of Iraq a sense of comfort.
"This is a historic event," said Hussein. "The Iraqi people are confident in our ability to provide security. We are ready for the transition."
At the end of the course, each NP officer received a certificate of course completion and congratulations from the commander of the 225th Eng. Bde., Brig. Gen. Owen Monconduit.
"Look to the left and right of you. You see a more capable National Police through a strong partnership," said Monconduit in his speech to the graduates. "We look forward to more training as you improve your skills ... and strengthen your capabilities to further protect the people of Iraq."
BAGHDAD - Staff Sgt. Joseph Ray (center), of Baton Rouge, La., gives instruction to Iraqi 2nd NP officers on how to maneuver the Talon robot, used to detect deadly IEDs. The class was part of a three-day course on route clearance taught at the 225th Engineer Brigade's Task Force Iron Claw Academy at Camp Liberty, June 24. (U.S. Army Photo by Lt. Col. Pat Simon, 225 Eng. Bde., 1st Cav. Div., MND-B)
BAGHDAD - Staff Sgt. Joseph Ray (center), of Baton Rouge, La., watches as his students, 2nd National Police officers, operate the Talon robot, June 24. The class was part of a three-day course on route clearance taught at the 225th Engineer Brigade's Task Force Iron Claw Academy at Camp Liberty. (U.S. Army Photo by Lt. Col. Pat Simon, 225 Eng. Bde., 1st Cav. Div., MND-B)