BAGHDAD (Army News Service, July 30, 2007) - As Operation Arrowhead Ripper moves along in Diyala, ever so quietly, Operation Rogue Thunder swept through a section of the capital in hopes of ridding the area of anti-Iraqi forces for good.
The 3rd Battalion, 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army, their Military Transition Team and Soldiers from the U.S. 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, cleared al-Jamea'a of caches, bombs and insurgents while helping to ramp up security efforts to reclaim the area terrorized and bullied by al-Qaeda.
Terrorists in the area had been ruthlessly controlling every action of the people according to Maj. Chris Norrie, the transition team's commander. Women were forced to cover their faces, men were arrested for no apparent reason and children weren't even allowed to play soccer in the streets.
At one time al-Jamea'a was occupied by white-collar professionals until insurgents began scare tactics that led many of the well-off residents to leave their homes. Many of the mansion-sized homes in the neighborhood are empty, and as Capt. Peter Kilpatrick said, the empty homes are seen as an opportunity for insurgents to move in.
"Only 30 percent of al-Jamea'a was occupied," said Capt. Kilpatrick. "The vacancies made it vulnerable."
Several caches had been found during previous operations around the Najra Mosque area. During the first day of this operation, streets and shops around the mosque were empty. A few people cautiously came out to see the Humvees, tanks and Iraqi army vehicles stage. This would begin the lengthy process of securing the area.
Sgt. Kenneth Swartwood said many of the residents are happy to see the Coalition forces move into their neighborhood. More importantly, the combined presence of Iraqis and Americans working together proved to the people just how important the area's security was.
"We came in with open arms to the Iraqi army," said Sgt. Swartwood. "A big reason Adel and Jamea'a are good now is because of the partnership with the IA. They actually worked with them hand-in-hand. The civilians feel a lot better when it's a partnership. They feel like it's twice as secure."
After many of the new security measures were in place, the commander of the Iraqi Army battalion, Col. Raheem went to the mosque to use its loudspeaker to make an announcement to the people in the neighborhood.
He let it be known to the people that coalition forces were in the area to make a change for the better. He said security will improve for the people and that they have not only God watching them, but the entire coalition.
"Almost immediately, people began to come out of their homes," Col. Raheem said. "These people deserve to live in peace after al-Qaeda had oppressed them for so long."
Now that security measures are in place, Capt. Kilpatrick said coalition forces in the area will have 24-hour surveillance over the entire area.
"We've established several static positions," he said. "However, I don't think locals would have felt comfortable with putting a coalition outpost next to the mosque without help from the Iraqis."
Col. Raheem said many of the locals feel that having a combined presence in the area is good and that it helps gain the trust of the people even faster.
(Spc. Alexis Harrison serves with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs.)