Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Ghazaliyah’s Sons of Iraq to Fall Under Government Authority
Tuesday, 23 September 2008 By Sgt. Matthew Vanderboegh 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division A member of the local Sons of Iraq, or Abna’a al Iraq, in Ghazaliyah fills out a packet at an in-processing drive in Ghazaliyah, Sept. 19, 2008. The volunteers, known to many as Ghazaliyah guardians, previously under the control of coalition forces, will fall under Iraqi command and control, Oct. 1, 2008. Photo by Sgt. Matthew Vanderboegh.BAGHDAD — Soon, hundreds of Ghazaliyah’s Sons of Iraq, or Abna’a al Iraq, will come under new management. In an effort to reorganize and integrate these concerned citizens, known locally as the Ghazaliyah guardians, they will fall solely under the control of the Government of Iraq. Though the change will be quite transparent to the citizens who cross these volunteers’ checkpoints daily, it will have a profound effect on the direction and authority of the regions Iraqi Security Forces. “Today we are transferring you from American authority to the Iraqi government,” said Capt. Thomas Melton, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Multi-National Division – Baghdad, speaking to a group of Sons of Iraq officers. “You will still remain in the GG (Ghazaliyah guardians) but you will be under Iraqi control. The idea is to transfer you from GG to Iraqi Army in the future.” The Ghazaliyah guardians, or simply the “GG,” act as an armed neighborhood watch group. Just as the points on a compass, the GG are divided up into four regions. In those regions they are largely responsible for internal security of the city by manning various checkpoints and safe houses. They have also served as an alternative for citizens that feel uncomfortable in approaching the Iraqi Army for security issues. As they are comprised of a Sunni majority and the Iraqi Army has a large amount of Shia, they have become a very valuable counterpoint in a city as sectarian mixed as Ghazaliyah. When asked about how they felt about the transfer to the Government of Iraq control, one of the Ghazaliyah guardians said, “This is unbelievable. We are glad to go to either the army or police. We regret not having signed up for the Iraqi Army. This will be our opportunity to make a greater difference in Ghazaliyah.” Currently, the transition is in its initial phase, said 1st Lt. Nicolas Caputo, who serves as a fire support officer. “The packets will be sent … over to the Iraqi Army. The Iraqi Army will select individuals that meet the requirements for enlistment in the Army. The GG will have a choice if they would like to join,” Caputo said. The Iraqi government will give these volunteers a trial period to assess their performance. In the end, most will become incorporated into the Iraqi Army or Iraqi Police force, Caputo added. They will also assist in finding future employment for those not selected. The Sons of Iraq in Ghazaliyah have mostly relied on coalition support; however, they will now have to operate directly with the Iraqi Army for those issues. “Both the Iraqi Army and the GG’s will have to learn to act in unison to make this work,” said Caputo. Ghazaliyah is a city made known for its strides in reconciliation, and it is that same spirit that will be needed to unite the local Iraqi Security Forces and ensure an increased security presence in the region.