Bagdad security escorts-Security guards fired randomly: Iraq official - Reuters

How are things landing at the airport these days in Baghdad? What are the risks for an American businessman traveling to Baghdad on business. I couldn't tell you exactly how it is right now, although some contracting buddies say Route Irish is still getting a makeover fountains, grass, flowers, etc , but landing at BIAP is probably still as safe as it used to be. With the majority of US troops pulled out I'd imagine that Iraqi bureaucrats are more aggressive in seeking bribes at entry points. You mention you're traveling on business: as long as you have a security element escort then you should be fine.

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In Baghdad the differences are striking: Blast walls are coming down, malls are going up, and streets are reopening.

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What does it take to transform wheeled vehicle operators with military occupational specialty 88M into convoy security escorts? Deployment Order In late April , the th Transportation Company received orders to deploy to Iraq as a provisional gun truck company. The company would be headquartered in An Najaf, approximately miles southwest of Baghdad. Intelligence indicated that the region lacked the basic conveniences, such as buildings, phones, and Internet service.

Expecting a desolate and isolated camp, the company prepared to take all of the items on its modification table of organization and equipment with it. The light-medium truck company also had a limited supply of crew-served weapons and communications equipment.

Within 2 weeks of receiving the deployment order, the company shipped its equipment and vehicles from the Port of Olympia, Washington. However, preparing its equipment for deployment left the th little time to train for its new mission. Each time the unit was tasked to support the brigade during the training center rotations, it had to wait for escorts to protect it. Strykers or any available armored vehicles were used as escort vehicles. This training did not give the unit an opportunity to hone its convoy security or convoy command and control skills.

Deployment Preparations When the th returned to Fort Lewis in April , just over a month remained before the unit had to be in theater.

It had no time to react to the change in mission. By the second week of June, the th Soldiers had completed all of their required training and were preparing for block leave. However, they received word that their deployment had been pushed forward to 16 June—weeks earlier than expected. Their expected day block-leave period was compressed into the 5 days preceding the departure of personnel. During the first week, the unit received several briefings on the threats it would face once it moved north to Iraq.

It also learned that it would be reorganizing under a new battalion and would be operating out of Al Taji, approximately 15 miles north of Baghdad, instead of An Najaf. One of the most prevalent threats faced by Soldiers in Iraq is the detonation of improvised explosive devices IEDs along the main supply routes.

Units conducting convoy operations on the roads of Iraq counter the threat of IEDs by welding armor to the exterior of their vehicles. While in Kuwait, the th tapped the talents of its Soldiers and found competent welders to armor the doors of all vehicles with ballistic steel.

Once the vehicles were uparmored, the company began mounting crew-served weapons on M 5-ton cargo trucks to give them fire superiority when facing the enemy and enable them to withstand myriad threats and provide reliable security to convoys.

The company still lacked assets that were critical to mission success. It had seven up-armored humvees and five ring-mounted gun trucks but only eight crew-served weapons and five weapon mounts. This was enough equipment to provide security for only one convoy mission at a time.

However, the company was unable to obtain more crew-served weapons, so it maximized its use of the M squad automatic weapons it had brought from Fort Lewis. Communication was another issue that had to be addressed. As a light-medium truck company, the th did not have FM radios for every vehicle. It could provide radios only for the convoy command and control element, lead vehicle, and trail vehicle.

Since the enemy was capable of attacking at any point of the convoy, every vehicle would need communication capability, so more radios were needed. MTS proved to be a reliable asset for convoy commanders and provided the company with visibility of its assets. Maintenance It soon became apparent that keeping a gun truck company rolling was a much more daunting task than maintaining a transportation company.

The Soldier maintenance platoon had to perform diverse tasks, ranging from vehicle maintenance and recovery to welding. Maintaining a fleet of M trucks was a hour-a-day task. Many of the Soldiers were younger than the average age of the trucks in the fleet. Every time a vehicle left the gate, it was inspected at the technical manual —10 level by the operator and at the —20 level by unit maintenance personnel.

This gave the Soldiers greater confidence in their vehicles than they had when only preventive maintenance checks and services were performed.

Convoy Image Operating safely in the Iraqi theater required the company to present a tough-as-nails appearance at all times. The Soldiers quickly learned that the deadlier they made their convoys look, the less likely they were to meet with enemy interdiction.

A constant mission tempo allowed the company leaders to develop tactics, techniques, and procedures to counter enemy attacks effectively. Rolling heavy with a mix of crew-served weapons, such as the MB machinegun, M2 machinegun, and MK19 machine grenade launcher, provided the diversity needed to deal with whatever threat the convoy encountered. Midway through the deployment, the company received a complement of M up-armored humvees. These were quickly incorporated into the mission cycle, giving the convoy commanders excellent defensive capabilities.

The M had improved armor, additional weapon systems, and communications equipment. Unlike the M gun trucks, which were manned with a driver, relief driver, gunner, and assistant gunner, only three Soldiers were required to operate the Ms.

Although the Ms were faster, they lacked the intimidation factor that the M trucks had. Thus, convoy commanders preferred to have an M in the lead because of its ability to power through almost anything it encountered.

Company leaders instituted security escort procedures that were based on the environment the convoy would traverse. If the convoy was heading to an urban environment, such as Baghdad proper, a 50—50 mix of Ms and Ms was used.

Convoys with only Ms were used for long-haul or rural convoys. The vehicles had temperamental transmissions, and repair parts were scarce. Therefore, the company leaders restricted the use of these vehicles to mission-related trips only. Since even minor damage could put the Ms out of commission for weeks, they were sacrosanct.

When the th received the mission to move from Al Taji to Camp Striker at Baghdad International Airport and become the dedicated security escort for the Joint Military Mail Terminal, they were in for a wild ride. They had to overcome many obstacles to complete their mission successfully.

Motschenbacher is a platoon leader with the th Transportation Company, 57th Transportation Battalion, at Fort Lewis, Washington, and recently redeployed from Baghdad, Iraq. She has a B. Jump to top of page. Safe Passage. The maintenance section of the th Transportation Company continuously updated the gun box design on their gun trucks. These trucks have a four-post ring mount and a fully enclosed shield for the gunner.

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After the Gold Rush

In Baghdad the differences are striking: Blast walls are coming down, malls are going up, and streets are reopening. But as Iraq's capital sheds the visual reminders of war's long, painful grip, is it enough to just wish peace into existence?

Baghdad isn't letting its guard down completely, but the fatigue with fighting and yearning for normalcy are changing the face of the city. May 7, The result can be seen everywhere in Baghdad: Relaxed Iraqis shop until midnight; laugh, eat, and socialize at fast-food restaurants and hipster coffee shops; or barbecue perch along the Tigris River, where US troops used to dodge bullets.

Iraqis are almost giddy with the normalcy that has been emerging in their lives since Islamic State was forced out of its last major stronghold in early Glitzy malls are opening with high-end shops that inspire confidence; incubators for business start-ups signify new opportunities; and families are flocking to an ever-increasing number of amusement parks.

Heralding the change — and suggesting that Iraq is finally emerging from a long litany of war — is the physical transformation on the ground: more open roads, fewer checkpoints, disappearing blast walls. They just want to move on with life, to develop the country. They want good schools, good hospitals, good roads, and good paying jobs…. Is that so much to ask? A single red ribbon stretched across the road, one end taped to a wood vase full of plastic flowers, the other end to a cyclone fence.

Blocking the road were two battered concrete barriers. Jalil al-Rubaie, arrived with a security escort bristling with firepower, also symbolic. The militants killed 21 civilians in an area under BOC control, at a time when Iraqi security forces are on high alert before parliamentary elections scheduled for May Despite the episodes of violence, Iraqis are almost giddy with the unaccustomed degree of normalcy that has been emerging in their lives since ISIS was forced out of its last major stronghold in Mosul, in early The threat of suicide bombs, killings, kidnappings, and insecurity has palpably receded, and casualty figures have dropped sharply.

Heralding the change, and suggesting that Iraq is finally emerging from a long litany of war, sanctions, US occupation, insurgency, and ethnic cleansing that has left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, is the physical transformation on the ground. Also gone are 73, segments of foot-high concrete blast walls, more than half of the total in the city, which turned Baghdad into an urban maze and shielded and separated Iraqis from one another.

The plan is for all blast walls to be removed and placed in a ring around the city, miles out. They want good schools, good hospitals, good roads and good paying jobs, and to go on vacation once or twice a year. It really is that simple. Until last year, even aspiring to such change and sense of safety seemed out of reach.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had until last year spent 80 percent of this time on the anti-ISIS fight and just 20 percent governing, according to one source, who says that figure has been reversed. And statistics tell the story: The death toll in Baghdad from terrorist attacks in all of was less than that of just two days in , military officials say, back when to Baghdadis were dying violent deaths every day.

The result can be seen everywhere in Baghdad, where relaxed Iraqis shop with their families until midnight; laugh, eat and socialize at fast-food restaurants and hipster coffee shops; or barbecue perch during picnics along the Tigris River, where American troops used to dodge bullets and roadside bombs. The Baghdad Mall in the upscale Mansour district is a bright example of the new confidence, with its glass edifice and high-end shops stuffed with items from everywhere.

Today he sprays perfume on passing customers to entice them into the clothes shop where he works. His hair is spiked up two inches in a style favored by Iraqi youths. With jeans and thin white T-shirt that are skin tight, Mr. The United Nations tallied 68 civilian deaths in April due to terrorism and armed conflict nationwide — just 8 of those in Baghdad — which is the lowest number by its figures since at least The overall trend has steadily improved.

But our intelligence services are now that much better that they are able to catch them. Rusted hulks of car bombs still dot back streets of the Jadriya district.

Bullet holes still pockmark buildings around Haifa Street, a former Al Qaeda stronghold downtown. Some hotels targeted by truck bombs remain abandoned. We are a country that is coming out of war. Among them is Dina Najim, an Iraqi social media strategist who moved from Virginia with her husband last year because Baghdad security had improved so much.

They still have a home in the US, as a backup, but the company she works for has seven desks at The Station. They are thinking differently. Such changes could not be more dramatic for analysts who lived in Baghdad during some of its darkest days. For them, the improving metrics of normalization are obvious — and the chances of reverting back are growing smaller as Iraqis revel in daily life.

He first returned just weeks after US troops and Iraqis toppled the statue of Hussein. Universities are setting records for admissions, year after year, he notes. But he says the gains are reversible.

After so much bloodletting and squandered opportunity, though, Iraqis have seen their latest demon ISIS largely vanquished, and security and intelligence services rebuilt and increasingly effective. That trajectory is reflected in the run-up to the election. How many jobs are you providing?

The video states that accounted for only 5 percent of the number of incidents of the previous five years in Baghdad. Some weapons depots were discovered in , and 51 gangs broken up that year, resulting in the freeing of 22 captives. A critical factor has been improved intelligence. Qassim Attiyah. Peace has meant booming business for official gun sellers in Baghdad, since licenses are now being issued for pistols and hunting rifles and shotguns, in a bid to control them.

In Mansour, the walls of the Alak al-Sahara gun shop are hung with an arsenal of firepower, like any gun show in the US. And customers never stop coming. He wants it for personal protection, since his job is in Abu Ghraib, a less-safe area west of Baghdad. Such concerns could not be further from the vast amusement park called Baghdad Island on the northern outskirts of the capital, which existed for Saddam-era elite after it was completed in Early season numbers have doubled this year compared with last, with some 40, Iraqis passing through the gates each Friday and on holidays.

Salman fondly remembers coming here with a girlfriend in , when Baghdad Island was the largest park of its kind in the Middle East.

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Monitor Movie Guide. Monitor Daily. Photos of the Week. Monitor Weekly PDF. Get the best of Monitor journalism in your inbox. View newsletters By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Policy. Select free newsletters: The Weekender. Christian Science Perspective. Why We Wrote This In Baghdad the differences are striking: Blast walls are coming down, malls are going up, and streets are reopening. An Iraqi family eats in a fast-food restaurant at the Baghdad Mall in the upscale Mansour district of Baghdad in April.

With the defeat of the Islamic State last year and a steep drop in attacks and casualties in Baghdad, Iraqis say they are feeling a greater sense of normalcy and safety.

Adam Schiff and the credibility of impeachment. Iraqis shop late into the night as they experience a new sense of normal life in the upscale Mansour district of Baghdad, April 13, An Iraqi couple walks hand in hand April 14, , as families experiencing a new sense of normal life visit the vast Baghdad Island amusement park on the northern outskirts of the capital.

Grilling perch for the Iraqi dish "masgouf" April 14, , as families visit the vast Baghdad Island amusement park on the northern outskirts of the capital on the Tigris River, which was once a US military base. Get the Monitor Stories you care about delivered to your inbox. By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Policy. Gloom over Iran. Can Iraq provide hope? Share this article Copy link Link copied. Next Up. The Explainer Is the House impeachment inquiry illegitimate?

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