Shaiba Airbase, Iraq --
The 1st Iraqi Army Quick Reaction Force has come a long way. Literally and figuratively.
As the first Iraqi division formed in 2004, the 1st Iraqi Army Division, renamed the 1st IA (QRF) in February, has developed, with the help of dedicated military transition team advisors, into the one of the premier units in the young Iraqi Army.
Within the last year, the al-Anbar based 1st IA (QRF) has deployed brigades to Baghdad and Diyala to fight terrorist groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq and anti-government militias, while still providing security for the citizens of al-Anbar.
Most recently, the 1st IA (QRF) has been deployed to Basrahh since April 1, 2008, with forward elements in the city even before that, to assist local Iraqi Army and police units in combating militias and other criminal elements in the city.
Within three days of receiving the order to deploy, the 1st IA (QRF) moved a full division headquarters along with the brigade-sized Quick Reaction Force 1 and its three battalions with hundreds of vehicles from their bases around Habbaniyah, Ramadi, and Hawas to Shaibah Airfield on the outskirts of Basrah.
Without missing a beat, QRF 1 and the 1st IA (QRF) began cordoning off militia-controlled sections of the city and actively pushing forward into what had traditionally been areas that Iraqi security forces would not go.
“There are more good people than bad here in Basrah. We need to protect those people, and all good Iraqi people,” said Sgt. Jassim Muhammad from QRF 1.
On April 12, QRF 1, along with elements of the 14th Iraqi Army Division and Iraqi Police, went house-to-house through the neighborhood of al-Quibla, on the ouskirts of Basrah, searching for illegal weapons, improvised explosive device materials and other contraband items.
“Today’s operation is very good,” said Sgt. Hasib abu Qadir of QRF 1 about the searches. “It is very necessary to provide security to the people of this area.”
The operation netted hundreds of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Many of the weapons were found as a result human intelligence sources.
“Their ability to sincerely engage the population is their greatest strength,” said Marine Capt. Christopher D. Wills, 3rd Battalion, QRF 1 military transition team senior adviser. “From that came today’s success.”
Along with the searches, QRF 1 has been delivering humanitarian supplies, like water and halal meals, to the citizens of Basrah since their arrival. The Motor Transport Regiment assigned to 1st IA (QRF) has conducted 21 missions to date carrying supplies into the city for distribution by QRF 1 and its battalions.
The most remarkable part of all these accomplishments has been the lack of Coalition involvement.
“They’ve been doing great,” said Marine Capt Daniel C. Lammers, 1st IA (QRF) MiTT assistant operations officer and Military Police Company adviser. “This definitely shows the resolve of the army. They’re not backing down and that shows a huge improvement on their end.”
While military transition teams of Marines and soldiers are embedded with the Iraqi units, planning and executing operations has largely been the responsibility of the Iraqis themselves.
“We throw ideas back and forth,” said Lammers. “But they do the majority of the planning themselves.”
During Operation Charge of the Knights, the house-to-house search of al-Quibla, only Iraqi soldiers and policemen entered the houses being searched, Iraqi bomb disposal experts cleared improvised explosive devices, Iraqi soldiers and policemen collected weapons and Iraqi soldiers distributed the humanitarian supplies.
While the soldiers of the 1st IA (QRF) have had the benefit of time to develop their abilities and have worked hard to become as competent as they are, this division’s success truly demonstrates the progress being made by the Iraqi Army.