Story by: Ryan Martin - Fort Dix Public Affairs Office Dated: Fri, May 28, 2010
FORT DIX, N.J. -- With the mission in Iraq shifting to Operation New Dawn in September, training the Iraq police force becomes paramount to that nation’s potential future success. Soldiers from the 442nd Military Police Company will do just that as they continue to prepare at Army Support Activity-Dix for the very mission of training the IPs.
For some of these New York Army National Guard Soldiers from Jamaica, N.Y., it will be a reunion of sorts as the unit deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
"We helped set up many different cities, conducted patrols, and started police academies to help educate the Iraqi Police," said Rockaway, N.Y. resident, Capt. Tara Dawe, 442nd MP Company commander.
More than 90 percent of the unit’s Soldiers work in the law enforcement in their civilian careers. The powerful veteran leadership in the organization’s ranks really adds to the strength of the unit, Dawe said.
"There are a handful who deployed with the unit in 2003, but we also have Soldiers who deployed with other units prior to coming to the 442nd. The experience definitely helps. Even though things change all the time in Iraq, it still helps to have people who know what to expect and know the culture," said Dawe.
This unit helped open the first IP academy in Al Najaf, Iraq. Sgt. 1st Class James Thomas, Bayshore, N.Y. resident and 442nd MP Company operations sergeant, said the academies should be more formal because the IP cadets can work together more cohesively.
"When we were there before it was hard because in many cases we didn’t know if the cadets were friends or foes. Many couldn’t run or do two push-ups either. They also only had sandals to train in," said Thomas.
Thomas said since then running shoes are given to all the cadets and the different tribes are separated into more accompanying provinces to make the training run more smoothly.
Thomas and some of his fellow Soldiers in the unit also assisted in the Sept. 11, 2001 clean-up efforts when their unit was one of the first called to duty to conduct body recovery, debris clean-up and perimeter security work in the area around Ground Zero in Manhattan, N.Y.
"We were working that area continuously for six months. It was very sad, but we were glad we could help as citizens and fellow New Yorkers," said Thomas.
During the unit’s present day training at ASA-Dix the organization is using role-play actors called civilians on the battlefield. The COBs play the roles of local townspeople, IPs, and insurgents in various training scenarios to simulate possible situations the Soldiers might encounter downrange.
"The training here has been great. It’s very realistic type of training too, which will absolutely help us deal with the conditions we’ll see in theater," said Dawe.
The 442nd MP Company will leave for Iraq in mid-to-late June.