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Soldiers in Northern Iraq Re-Check Security Procedures

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2003 -- Noting there has not been an increase in incidents in his area of operations in the last couple of days, the commanding general of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division in northern Iraq said he has re-checked procedures and re-briefed soldiers to help ensure their safety and security.

"(We've) looked at what we're doing in order to make sure we protect ourselves against vehicle-borne explosive devices as well as individuals who might have explosive devices on them," Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told reporters here today from his headquarters in Tikrit. "We've also talked to our counterparts in the Iraqi police force and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps to make sure they're prepared and understand that they are also vulnerable to attack."

The general said he was proud and honored to lead the soldiers of Task Force Iron Horse. "We've accomplished a tremendous amount in the last two months," he added.

The progress, added Odierno, comes with a price. "We honor those heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice to liberate the Iraqi people, and we carry on with each of them in our hearts. They are courageous Americans who loved their country and what it stands for. They will never be forgotten."

Odierno said the task force's soldiers come in daily contact with terrorists, former members of Saddam Hussein's regime and common criminals. He said they continue to improve security and stability by conducting search-and-attack missions and presence patrols, as well as a series of aggressive operations to "disarm, defeat and destroy hostile forces as well as capture midlevel former regime members responsible for organizing anticoalition activities."

Since Sept. 10, Operation Ivy Focus, a series of aggressive offensive raids to maintain pressure on enemy forces, has resulted in the capture of 123 midlevel former regime members, 43 improvised explosive device makers and six financiers, said Odierno.

Soldiers also have seized $1.5 million "suspected of being used to finance attacks on coalition forces," he added. They have confiscated 340 AK-47 assault rifles, more than 1,000 grenades, 1,340 mortar rounds, 1,200 blasting caps and 5,000 rounds of various munitions.

A second phase of Ivy Focus -- Commander's Engagement -- includes developing relationships and dialogues with local civic, religious and tribal leaders to "promote trust and cooperation," said the general. More than 800 such engagements have taken place, he said.

As an example, the general cited the task force's support of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, which includes lifting curfews to allow Iraqis freedom of travel and increased sensitivity to local traditions on the part of American troops. The general said soldiers have been asked not to eat, smoke or drink in front of Iraqis who are fasting.

Odierno said coalition efforts have resulted in 883 completed rebuilding projects, with another 105 under way. The projects include repairing banks, security services, health clinics and hospitals, water treatment plants, utilities, courthouses and telecommunications.

"We're rebuilt or renovated 480 schools; 96 percent of the hospitals and health clinics are open; 25 water treatment plants are undergoing repairs, and power generation has increased 300 percent since the start of the war," he said.

While progress has been significant, the general said the road ahead is challenging.

"Our soldiers are professionals," he said. "They will persevere and complete this mission with the same motivation and dedication they have displayed from the beginning. Our soldiers will not let up, and every day we are one step closer to establishing a free Iraq run by Iraqis."