RAMADI, Iraq --
Two years ago, Ramadi's police force was essentially wiped out by a strong insurgency that devastated almost every police station, leaving only a small number of officers on the job and a city considered by officials to be uncontrollable and nicknamed the “wild west.” According to an NBC News article from September 2006, a secret report concluding that the United States military could not defeat the insurgents in al-Anbar Province and al-Qaeda was rapidly filling the political vacuity.
Almost a year ago, the tribal leaders of Ramadi formed the “Al Anbar Awakening Movement” and agreed to work more closely with Coalition forces.
Lt. Col. Salah Arak al Alwani, the al Jameah police station commander, believed it was the moment for all Iraqi’s to come together. He said, “Catholics, Muslims, Sunnis and Shiites act as one, work as one to rid the country of terror and fear.”
The locals began to revolt against al-Qaeda and support Coalition forces. After the movement, the numbers of recruits for the Iraqi Security Forces increased dramatically and attacks against Coalition forces decreased. For May 2007, 44 attacks were confirmed in the Ramadi area compared to a significantly lower total of four attacks during April 2008.
Today, the Marines of 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, are responsible for ensuring the newly revitalized force matures and to serve as a mentor to the officers.
“The (Iraqi Police) lead everything,” said Lance Cpl. Mark Bailey, a rifleman with Company C. “If we go to a house, they’ll go first. We’re basically there for back up. We’re joined together as a team now.”
The strong teamwork the Marines and Iraqi police officers share has paved the way for a sound relationship despite the language and culture barriers.
“They’re helping us as much as we’re helping them,” Bailey said. “They understand broken English just like we understand broken Arabic and with the use of hand and arm signals and interpreters it gets easier. The relationship is great.”
The battalion’s leaders have stressed the importance of creating a great relationship with the police, they also put emphasis on monitoring them as they grow, eventually becoming an independent force, a feat several stations have already accomplished.
“Preparing (the police) is important so they can stand on their own and allow Coalition forces to fully hand over control of the province to the Iraqis,” said Hospitalman Sean Deegan, a navy corpsmen with Company C. “Everything we do, we make sure they’re involved to help them further rebuild their city and community.”