Captured weapons to be given to new Iraqi police forces

14 May 2003 | Army Staff Sgt. David Bennett

Inside several large metal containers, a variety of enemy rifles, mortars and rocket launchers captured during the war collect dust as members of the Army's 24th Ordnance Battalion wait to move them to a military camp 10 miles south of the city.

Battalion members will destroy some small arms and crew-served weapons. Many will go to arm a new Iraqi Army once its parameters are established.

However 1,800 boxes -- each containing a new American-made 9 mm pistol, recovered within Baghdad -- were removed so they can be distributed among police officers working in five southern Iraqi cities, said Marine Lt. Col. David Rababy, an intelligence officer with the I Marine Expeditionary Force in Al Hillah.

Those cities are Ad Diwaniyah, Al Hillah, Karbala, An Najaf, and As Samawah.    

"Iraqi police in those five zones will get these weapons," Rababy said.

Marine and Army forces feel is this is a small step toward empowering a local police force that has been in a state of dishevelment since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

According to Army Maj. R.W. Joy, an assistant public safety officer with the 358th Civil Affairs Brigade, regular Iraqi policemen customarily carry rifles not pistols.

"Only officers wear pistols," echoed Lt. Col. Ed Fullmer, public safety chief for the 358th, referring to the current makeup of municipal police departments around Iraq.

Because the sidearms are new to many Iraqi patrolmen, Marines and an Army Reserve MP company will be training them in basic marksmanship.

The 358th, a Reserve unit based in Norristown, Pa., has been assessing various factions of Iraq from its physical infrastructure, to hospitals, to its judicial and government systems. Reports generated by the 358th are forwarded to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs, which is overseeing much of the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

Still, the efforts of the 358th go beyond arming a police force still grappling with large pockets of looting throughout the five-city region. It is examining its existing court system as well as the internal police policies to develop a structure of law and order that will benefit the Iraqi people.

"To be part of a training program for Iraq's police is the most meaningful thing I've done in the Army Reserve," Joy said.