FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq: Airmen from the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Det. 3, provide outside-the-wire combat support by doing everything from patrolling as police transition teams to performing intelligence operations to using military working dog teams to help Iraqi police with security.
“The mission of the detachment is to train, coach, and mentor the Iraqi police within the Rasheed area of Baghdad,” said Capt. Matt Ballanco, S3 opertions officer. “We work alongside 17 different police stations or organizations within the Iraqi police in our area. Some of their missions are slightly different and require different approaches to improving their capacity. We run missions every day of the week and at all hours of the day to ensure we are available to assist our Iraqi counterparts if they need our assistance in a response, to serve a warrant, or to exploit a crime scene.”
The Airmen assigned to the detachment are performing difficult task every day, but said working with the Iraqi police to secure their country has been a very gratifying mission.
“Working with the Iraqi police is one of the most rewarding jobs of my career,” said Tech. Sgt. Shannon Blanton, the police transition team chief. “The Iraqi police have a vision of what their country will be in 10 years. They are sponges for information because they respect the experience and expertise we bring them. I had to build a trusting relationship with the Iraqi police commanders before they would open up to tell me what they needed and how I could help them. Now they talk to me like we have known each other most of our lives. With that relationship in place the station and community has moved to a new level.”
In order to achieve mission success, many security forces Airmen from the 732nd ESFS have to leave the safety confines of base on a daily basis.
“Driving to and from work is one of the biggest hazards of our job,” said Captain Ballanco, who is deployed from MacDill AFB, Fla. “Since coming together in July we have stressed teamwork, and it is ever so important when driving the streets of Baghdad. Our squads spend a significant amount of their mission prep time practicing their battle drills in case something happens, that way they are on the same page and can respond appropriately. Everyone on the team has a role in detecting and deterring possible attacks, so we can’t afford for somebody to be asleep at the wheel. Since we also patrol with our Iraqi counterparts we have to ensure they’re on the same page also, and we practice with them frequently.”
Detachment 3 also has intelligence members working around the clock gathering up-to-date information to ensure the missions go as smoothly as possible.
“In this environment having a solid intelligence section is paramount,” said Tech. Sgt. Brian Morrill, NCO in charge of inteligence. “We keep the teams up to date with all of the newest enemy tactics, techniques and procedures to ensure they can properly combat them. We also assist our Iraqi counterparts compile actionable intelligence so they can properly secure their areas they’re responsible for.”
The detachments mission requires more than just security forces personnel to get the job done, they have a slew of support members who play a vital role to include vehicle maintainers.
“Our vehicle maintainers are a great example of the commitment our support personnel give to the mission,” said Maj. Nathan Schalles, Det. 3 commander. “Our daily mission puts a great strain on our vehicle fleet but we have never had to cancel a mission due to vehicles not being available. Our maintainers bend over backward to make sure the other Airmen have the required armored vehicles to protect them and perform the mission.”
The mission of Det. 3 isn’t an easy task, but Major Schalles says it’s the hard work and dedication of his Airmen that make it a success.
“I am continually impressed with the Airmen and their ability to adapt to the complex operational environment and perform their mission superbly,” Major Schalles said. “The junior officers and NCOs spend a great deal of their time assisting and mentoring senior Iraqi police officers and they do so with great success. They have been given a great deal of responsibility in leading the IPs down the path of providing Iraq with a solid police force capable of protecting the people and being an integral part of the judicial system, and they excel.”