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December 7, 2008
Sons of IraqBy Greyhawk
The following contribution was written by Adam Weinstein, MNC-I Public Affairs, and sent to us by Major Brian Tribus, Media Relations Officer for Multi-National Corps - Iraq.
Along with the story, some timelines on transfer of "Sons of Iraq" (SOI) to Government of Iraq (GOI) control. In Baghdad that's already happened. In Wasit, Babil, Qadisiyah, and Diyala provinces the process has begun, and should be completed by January 1st. Anbar is scheduled for transfer by 1 February, with Ninewah and Kirkuk following on 1 March. Salah-ad-Din completes the process on 1 April.
"Of course, reconciliation is difficult", Major Tribus acknowledges. "There are many that feel we won't succeed - that the GOI will bide its time and that the SOI will face retribution once we leave. Certainly a possibility. The GOI can take this route and alienate 99K men and risk them choosing to take up their arms and return to violence. Or, the GOI can continue to demonstrate its commitment to reconciliation."
Sons of Iraq: A Vote of Confidence for Reconciliation
By Adam Weinstein, MNC-I Public Affairs
In early November, as U.S. Soldiers looked on, Baghdad-based members of the Sons of Iraq got their monthly paychecks from a new boss: the Iraqi government.
“It was a critical step in the turnover of the mostly Sunni volunteers from Coalition to Iraqi control. And the Baghdad transfer has become a model for similar moves in four other key provinces,” according to Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer, the chief of reconciliation and engagement for Multi-National Corps - Iraq. “The government is doing the right thing. Baghdad has gone quite well, and we expect that the rest of the provinces will do the same.”
The Sons of Iraq, one of the war’s good-news stories, occupy what Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, the deputy commanding General of MNC – I, calls “the leading edge of reconciliation.” A few years ago, many of the group’s members considered Coalition forces their enemies; some fought against U.S. troops and their allies. But in June 2007, armed militiamen in Anbar province found they shared a goal with the Coalition: taking back their neighborhoods from al Qaeda in Iraq. “We helped organize them and eventually began to fund them to provide critical infrastructure and security throughout Anbar,” said Ferriter, “and it quickly spread to many of the other provinces.”
The security situation improved greatly, owing in part to Sons of Iraq tips and operations. Now, Coalition and Iraqi forces are cooperating to integrate approximately 99,000 SoI members across nine provinces into the Iraqi security forces, or provide them with peacetime livelihoods.
“The government will not abandon these people,” said Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Muzhir al-Mawla, vice chairman of the Iraqi Follow-up Committee for National Reconciliation. “The government will provide employment opportunities for these people … as a reward for their sacrifice and their duties.”
U.S. leaders have dubbed the process “transfer and transition.” First, the SoI troops are transferred to Iraqi control and begin receiving paychecks from the government. Then, the members are given the opportunity to transition into new careers.
Many have begun to join the Iraqi army and police forces, where 20 to 30 percent ultimately will be integrated. The rest can enter a variety of literacy and job-training programs to earn a living in civil service – from banking to auto repair to electrical maintenance. “Those who have a degree will be given government jobs,” said al-Mawla. “Those who do not have much of a degree or any trade can go to a vocational school.”
Early reports on the Baghdad program, which includes over 51,000 SoI members, have been positive and the Iraqi government has followed through on its commitment to pay the SoI salaries. Nearly 2,300 Sons of Iraq from Baghdad have entered training to become police officers; others are signing up for apprenticeship training on Civil Service Corps projects, a New Deal-style employment program, with spots reserved for SoI.
“I feel good and appreciated that I got paid by the Iraqi government,” said Ahmed Kareem Ahmed, a SoI member from Ameriyah in north Baghdad. “I am very happy, very satisfied when I see my neighborhood safe and secure.”
The next provinces to transfer SoI members to Iraqi control are Diyala, Wasit, Babil, and Qadisiya. Sons of Iraq in these provinces will register during the month of December, and the transfer will take place on Jan. 1, 2009. The SoI’s four remaining provinces are slated to complete their transfers in summer 2009.
Kulmayer acknowledge that the program faces several challenges. “Many of the Sons of Iraq were worried that they might not get paid after the Coalition forces gave control to the Government of Iraq,” said Capt. Landgrave Smith, commander of Company D, TF 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt.
Further, many SoI leaders have expressed skepticism over how many of their members will be admitted into the Iraqi Army and Police, jobs that are seen as a means to regaining Sunni prestige and political power.
SoI leaders in Diyala province had many of those questions answered in meetings with Coalition and Iraqi leaders Nov. 17 and 19. They were reassured that the government of Iraq was meeting its obligations to SoI members in Baghdad, and would do so across the country as the transfer continued.
“I think it was absolutely critical that the Iraqi government was there to speak directly to their people. It was uncertainty of what was going to happen with the transfer that I think was most worrisome to the SoI,” Kulmayer said.
“The message is so much better received when it comes from your own officials and the leaders that are actually going to take care of you.”
Posted by Greyhawk / December 7, 2008 1:40 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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