FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq -- As the stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom progress, the mission stays the same... to help put the Iraqi people back on their feet so they can successfully govern themselves.
Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and soldiers from the 118th Military Police Company are working together with Iraqi Police stations around Forward Operating Base Kalsu, offering training, supplies, and general support to the Iraqi Police.
"What's important is stabilizing the government. Although we try not to appear as occupiers, to many of them we are. Our part is to ensure their success and go home," said Major Sean P. Dardeen, the MEU Service Support Group 24 executive officer, and a native of Greenwood, Ind.
Dardeen and his Marines traveled to Baghdad to pick up police vehicles donated by coalition forces. The 32 police cars and sport utility vehicles were driven from their location in Baghdad to FOB Kalsu, Iraq, where the vehicles are being distributed to the surrounding Iraqi police stations.
This is only a part of what's being done to help the Iraqi Police accomplish their mission. Army soldiers from the 118th MPs, now attached to the 24th MEU, have been working with the Iraqi police, teaching them how to develop their skills as policemen.
"We've given them classes in first aid, convoy security, and almost all of our military police functions," said 1st Lt. Cristina F. Butler, a native of Burbank, Calif., and platoon leader of 1st platoon, 118th MP Company Butler went on to explain that the MP platoon contributed by donating uniforms, painting offices, providing administrative supplies, setting up operation centers, and fixing damaged weapons.
"We're checking over fifty some weapons... AK-47s, RPKs, and other Russian made weapons," said SSgt. Matthew E. Robinson, MSSG-24 ordinance chief, a native of Nacogdoches, Texas. "We're making sure the Iraqi police have weapons that function," said Robinson. "Its very important we let them take charge of their own country, and they're going to need to do that with decent weapons."
As Marines and soldiers work together with the Iraqi police during the project, members of the Iraqi police force expressed their excitement with their new responsibility.
"I like my job; used to be in the military," said an Iraqi policeman through an interpreter. "I want to make a safer Iraq for the people of Iraq. The Americans are teaching us everything, every day teaching us a different thing. I am practicing my English as they teach. A lot of soldiers are our friends and they know our names... a good relationship. Americans and Iraqis work together hand in hand. That way, [our relationship] with Americans will be very great."