Saturday, March 22, 2008

The 56 MPs, the CLC, and an MP3

March 21, 2008

The 56 MPs, a Reserve Unit based in Arizona, have become very familiar with the area around Tikrit. They have worked closely with the Iraqi Police (IPs), helping them establish themselves at several stations around the city, and now they are doing the same with the CLC (Concerned Local Citizens, also known as the Sons of Iraq).
CLC groups are being formed by sheiks throughout Iraq as a way of increasing security in their communities. The American soldiers do their best to support these groups because they want the Iraqi citizens to play a part in policing each other. This should be what the Iraqis want also, but it will be some time before the citizens of Iraq fully trust the Sons of Iraq.
Because the development of the CLC groups is a work in progress, there is a sometimes a looseness about these groups. There is no agreed upon uniform used nationally, so some CLC members are more difficult to pick out of a police line-up than others, and some of these guys have done things that would land them in a police line-up. The lack of a standard uniform means it is possible for imposters to pose as CLC members and take advantage of innocent citizens.
When it comes to CLCs, there are two fairly safe assumptions that can be made: 1. Each chapter has some bad guys among its members, guys who may or may not have shed their criminal ways, and 2. At least one member in each chapter has some hip hop, probably Usher, downloaded on his cell phone.
The MPs had an appointment at a CLC headquarters where some weapons and explosives had been collected. This meant that theoretically the CLC had been on the job and found some bad stuff. Good for them! Or maybe it meant one of the CLC members had grown tired of having a pile of rockets and explosives in his living room, so he had pretended to discover the stuff in an abandoned house. No telling. Either way, the materials needed to be disposed of.
The sheik of the chapter arrived shortly after we did. He looked very young, but apparently had more money than anyone else chasing after the sheik title, so he won, sort of like Mayor Bloomberg. We enjoyed some chai in his office and everyone had a chance to say inshallah at least once.
The sheik wore an Iraqi Army uniform, as did many of the men in his group, which gave them perhaps a more legitimate air than they deserved because as soon as they noticed the female reporter traveling with the American soldiers, they fired up the Usher and there was some dancing. How pleased Usher would be to know he is helping the Sons of Iraq stay limber. And one American soldier. And the female reporter.
While we were cooling down, some of the more mature local citizens laid the accumulated weapons and explosives out on the ground, and Sergeants Shawn Peterson and Danny Schrader cataloged them. Among the materials was a length of clear, narrow tubing attached to a switch. These devices, called pressure switches, are filled with water, and when a vehicle drives over the tubing, the water gets pushed to a switch, tripping it and causing an explosion. American soldiers are very familiar with pressure switches.
The EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team had been called, which meant we would be witnessing a large explosion. These controlled blasts can be a boost to morale because they are visible and audible evidence that another potentially deadly attack has been avoided.
The CLC members mobilized when the Americans explained it was time to get rid of the dangerous materials. They carefully loaded the weapons they had collected into the back of a Chevy truck, and followed our convoy and the EOD team to an area where an explosion of the size we were about to witness would not damage any homes or property.
After a tension-filled countdown of the final seconds, a loud boom followed by a cloud of smoke filled the air. Very satisfying. The CLC truck returned to its headquarters, and our convoy made its way back to COB (Contingency Operating Base) Speicher, weaving through the busy streets of Tikrit, and then onto the open road leading to the base, the soldiers always watching the roads, the cars, the people, for signs of danger.
If the CLC chapters throughout the country start to clean up their own backyard, the American soldiers will be their biggest fans. The 56 MPs want to take the CLC seriously and believe if they set a good example, the CLC will learn to follow it. Maybe the explosion we witnessed was a sign that this chapter is ready to take out the trash, ready to step in and do the job these MPs have been doing for months. That would be cause for celebration, with some dancing of course.

No comments: