IA soldiers reinforce Al Asad’s first line of defense

23 Dec 2009 | Cpl. Joshua Murray

Visitors to the main gate of Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, will find a few changes as they approach the installation. When they read warning signs and twist through a serpentine blockade, it quickly becomes apparent they are approaching a traffic control point, which several days ago was nothing more than a wooden shack positioned a few feet from the road.

Soldiers from the 7th Iraqi Army Division learned construction techniques and operational procedures for a TCP, Dec. 4-14, 2009, aboard Al Asad. The new, reinforced TCP is the first line of defense on approach to the base’s main entrance, which now serves as a systematic anti-terrorism tool completely controlled by IA soldiers.

“Before we got there, they had a tower, a compound for a living area and a guard shack,” explained Army Sgt. Ryan Johnson, a combat engineer with Company A, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade). “They were stopping vehicles where there were no Hesco barriers, no security and no defense against a [vehicle-borne improvised explosive device]. They were stopping vehicles next to the barracks and all the [IA soldiers] were right there. God forbid [an attack] might have happened and taken out everyone there and their living area.”

Without the blockades and speed bumps, traffic previously approached the TCP at potentially unsafe speeds, which gave the IA soldiers only a brief moment to evaluate the oncoming vehicle and its occupants.

“We showed them how to use escalation of force techniques and in what instances they should actually use them,” mentioned Spc. Michael Baker, a combat engineer with Company A. “If a VBIED approaches now, the TCP will slow the vehicle down and give Iraqi soldiers the opportunity to apply escalation of force if needed.”

The reinforcement was referred to as a “train the trainer” course, in which IA soldiers will use the skills they’ve learned to teach other soldiers in their units.

“This checkpoint hasn’t been hit, but I know others that have been, and that is why we had the idea to secure the TCP,” said IA 1st Lt. Jalal Hashem. “We learned from Coalition forces how to arrange the TCP, and now we can reinforce other checkpoints to prevent terrorist activities.”

After days of instruction and assembly, the men and women who live only minutes from the TCP can feel more secure thanks to Al Asad’s new first line of defense and the IA soldiers who guard it.