Thursday, June 24, 2004


These guys are in a part of Baghdad that our own 1st Brigade used to patrol.
With only a sheet of cardboard for shade, Spc. Jamel Hawthorne sits atop a sun-scorched roof of an Iraqi police station.

Hawthorne and his squad, soldiers from the 272nd Military Police Company, pull security to deter enemy insurgents from launching strikes against lightly armed Iraqi cops.

They don’t attack when we’re here,” said Hawthorne, 21, of Baton Rouge, La. “They can come on, but we have a lot of firepower. We’d hold them.”

“These [attacks] are from people who love Saddam, people who come from Fallujah and have relatives here,” Shukur said. “Many bad people, with RPGs and AKs, they shoot us at night then run away.”

On Sunday, a local man with ties to the insurgents brought a warning. If troops did not withdraw from the station, insurgents threatened to kill every Iraqi officer assigned to it.

“We received the same threat four days ago, but nothing happened,” said Sgt. Paul Meyer, 30, of Old Orchard Beach, Maine. “While we’re here, we’ll protect the station.”...

Staring out into the endless rows of tan-colored buildings, the guys chat to stay alert, they said.

“We talk about muscle cars, women and ... women,” Sgt. Stephen Parrott said. “And women.”

Sometimes that talk about friends back home, wondering what they’re doing now as the soldiers pull their tour in Iraq.

You’ve got to be a talker up here,” said Pfc. Clinton Rope, 20, of Clarinda, Iowa. “That’s what passes the time.”...

Keeping a presence at the Iraqi police stations is more than just guard duty. Marquiss’ soldiers mentor the Iraqis to work professionally, he said. They cover basic police functions; apprehending suspects, conducting investigations and preparing cases for the court.

Helping build the Iraqi force is not without challenges.

Supplies for the Iraqi police are slow in coming. Finding interpreters also takes time. But many police now have uniforms, pistols and numbered badges. Some of their trucks are new Nissan pickups. Bulletproof vests slowly are being fielded.

Looking like police and having equipment brought up the Iraqi’s morale, Marquiss said.

In just a couple of months, Marquiss has witnessed a marked improvement, he said.

“They are going out and doing things on their own now,” Marquiss said.

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