Fire Relief – Iraqi Police Help Civilians, Change Perceptions

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By Spc. Anna-Marie Hizer, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

KIRKUK, Iraq – In the United States, when a neighbor loses their home and possessions to fire, neighbors and friends often chip in to help – alleviating some of the stress felt during a time of tragedy.

An Iraqi family stands outside their damaged home
KIRKUK, Iraq An Iraqi family stands outside their home, damaged by fire from a recent vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack. Iraqi Police along with Soldiers from Company C, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Co. C, 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion and Psychological Operations, assisted several families by supplying them with water, beds, school supplies and shoes.

That is exactly what local Iraqi Police, along with Soldiers from Company C, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, C Company, 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion, and Psychological Operations troops, did for four families whose homes were damaged by fire from a recent vehicle-borne improvised explosive attack.

Police officers and Soldiers hauled in beds, water and school supplies to the ravaged homes, helping to make the families’ lives a little easier until larger repairs can be made.

First Lt. Daniel Wackerhagen, the company Fire Support Officer, surveyed some of the homes, making notes on what structures were in most need of repair, and talking to the families about what else they would like to see done.

“Something bad happened to us but they [Iraqi Police] are good,” said one man whose home took significant damage.

Major Paul Beekman, a team chief with C Co., 402nd CA Bn., said it is about neighbors helping neighbors and he hopes today’s act will help improve the reputation of the local Iraqi Police (IP), as well as help the IP better understand their role in the new Iraq – to protect and serve.

“We’re hoping to change the minds of the IP, and we’re hoping to change the minds of the citizens,” he said, adding that many people still view the IP as they did during the previous regime; a force that served to bully and terrorize the populace, rather than protect them.

Now, however, IP are taking on a different role – trying to keep insurgents and ‘bad guys’ out of their neighborhoods, something many of the IP take to heart considering they are targeted in many attacks such as this. In the VBIED attack they are trying now to repair, an IP chief may have been the target of the blast.

Unfortunately, Beekman said, even when terrorists have a target in mind, they almost always harm innocent bystanders.

“These are innocent people trying to go about their daily lives,” he said. “People lost possessions, cars, homes … the terrorists could care less.”

Wackerhagen said they will continue to work with the IP to help out the families more, if they can, until they are back on their feet.

“With all that is going wrong in Iraq, this is something we can do right,” he said.

Spc. Anna-Marie Hizer is a journalist and photographer with 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Iraq