AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq – The Iraqi Police force here has grown to more than 27,000 officers and has expanded its security operations as a result of an exceptionally successful training and partnership program coordinated by Soldiers of the Massachusetts Army National Guard.
The 747th Military Police Company, of Ware, Mass., is the primary police advisory element for the entire Al Anbar Province and has Soldiers deployed throughout the area’s 10 districts in Police Transition Teams. These teams also include 28 certified civilian police officers; six certified civilian correction officers; and 20 imbedded international police advisors.
The basic policing program taught by U.S. Forces beginning in 2003 has expanded to encompass multiple policing professionalization tactics developed from seven international police functions: investigations, leadership, training, operations, logistics, administration and facilities. In this endeavor, the 747th focuses at the supervisory and management level in order to assess, advise, assist and train the Iraqi Police. It is vital for them, and all modern law enforcement agencies, to successfully accomplish these seven functions in order to be considered a professional organization.
The company commander, Capt. Jim Jones, is responsible for the tactical, on-ground oversight for the Combined Law Enforcement Anti-Terrorism task force. Task Force CLEAT allows Iraqi Police Officers to serve as first responders on any incident in the province in order to investigate acts of terrorism before, during or after an improvised explosive device attack by performing evidence collection and crime scene exploitation. These efforts allow the Iraqis a means of maintaining not only a basic policing function but also capabilities similar to large U.S. agencies.
The unit’s first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Michael Domnarski, helped the Iraqi Police create and maintain a special weapons and tactics team capable of dealing with high-intensity police operations. The SWAT team is modeled after those found in the U.S. and gives the Iraqi Police another effective tool to combat insurgent activities.
The 747th, augmented by other U.S. Forces, also provides further, high-level professional instruction at three training academies throughout the province focused on crime lab usage, evidence handling, counter-explosives teams, advanced investigations, and antiterrorism investigations.
Many members of this National Guard unit are civilian law enforcement officers, like Jones and Domnarski, and have been eager to share their vast knowledge with their Iraqi counterparts. The real-world experience in military and civilian law enforcement possessed by the Soldiers of the 747th has been a key factor in the success of the training and mentoring program in this province.
Sgt. 1st Class Juan Rivera, a military police Soldier and former Massachusetts National Guard Recruiter who volunteered to deploy with the 747th, developed an emergency call center, much like “911” in the U.S., to improve the efficiency of emergency response in the province. Previously, citizens in the area had to call several different numbers depending on where they lived and on what emergency service they required. Now, all emergency calls for police, fire and emergency medical services are received at “1-0-4,” and the appropriate first responders are then dispatched.
Early on, the call center only received one or two calls per day, but it now receives up to 100 calls per week, ranging from minor disturbances to useful military information handled exclusively by Iraqi Police or the Iraqi Army.
Rivera has trained, advised and assisted the leadership of the Iraqi Police at the emergency call center and is also assisting the Provincial Government in creating a public awareness campaign to educate the Iraqi citizens of its benefits. Rivera and his Iraqi Police counterparts have also developed an initiative to emplace signs and billboards and broadcast public service announcements on local television to make the Iraqi public more aware of the system and its criticality to Iraqi Police primacy.
Recently, Maj. Brett P. Conaway, operations officer for the 211th Military Police Battalion, conducted a unit visit and saw first-hand the positive effects of the hard work carried out by the Soldiers of the 747th. Conaway travelled to the Fallujah District Headquarters with 1st Lt. Justin Prophet, Staff Sgt. Jason Voas, team chief for Police Transition Team 6, and other members of the 2nd Platoon to conduct key-leader engagements. Prophet and his Soldiers have gained the respect and admiration of all their Iraqi counterparts through their tireless efforts and by developing mutually-beneficial, professional relationships.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom I in 2003, Conaway and other members of the 211th Military Police Battalion served in Fallujah training the fledgling Iraqi Police force.
“After seeing the Fallujah Police Department transformed from a completely dysfunctional force with almost no resources in 2003 to a multi-station, city police agency with uniformed command structure, radios, vehicles and an active counter-terrorism operation that it is today, I am convinced that all our sacrifices here have made a critical impact,” said Conaway.
The evolution of the Iraqi Police system from non-existence in 2003 to its current sustainable operations represents a critical stage in the drawdown of U.S. Forces in Iraq. The Iraqi Police are able to operate exclusively at this time and have gained legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Iraq.
The 747th Military Police Company will be responsible for the remaining Iraqi Police transition training and oversight through the end of its deployment in mid-2010 completing the efforts initiated by the 211th Military Police Battalion in 2003. A critical objective for the company is to continue to facilitate key-leader engagements between the Iraqi Police and the Iraqi Army to maintain a sustainable and legitimate security infrastructure.
Other Massachusetts Army National Guard Military Police units have also played significant roles in the development of Iraq’s Police Services during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2008, the 972nd Military Police Company, of Reading, Mass., conducted police training missions in Baghdad, and in 2009, the 772nd Military Police Company, of Taunton, Mass., ran multiple Police Transition Teams out of the city of Al Kut.
Since 2003, the Citizen-Soldiers of Massachusetts have answered the call and played an important role in improving the effectiveness of the Iraqi Security Forces and improving the quality of life for all the people of Iraq.