Buhriz Police Station, Iraq - Maj. Art Weeks stood back and surveyed the bustling activity of Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Iraqi Police and civilian contractors who had joined forces to re-establish law and order in this town.
"This is the longest we've been in Buhriz without getting shot at," he said matter-of-factly.
The operations officer for 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, Weeks was in charge of oversight for Operation Backbreaker - a project to fortify a new police station as well as the Governor's mansion just down the road.
Buhriz, near Ba'qubah, has been a hot spot of insurgent activity since the brigade put boots on the ground here last February. And in November, insurgents attacked the town's police station, briefly taking it over and ultimately destroying it. The station was moved into an adjacent building, but it too was attacked.
Although coalition forces assisted the Iraqi Police in regaining the building the same day, the IPs were unable to keep the station on their own, said Diyala Provincial Police Coordinator Capt. Christian H. Solinsky. As a result, the town had been without a security presence for more than a month.
"We've decided to use a new site because the old police stations were un-defendable and were destroyed in attacks," he said. "So we've taken this new building and had some work done on it and we're going to use it as a police station. We're facilitating that by making it more defendable."
In order to do that, troops from the artillery battalion's Charlie Company first secured the area with help from their 2nd Battalion 2nd Infantry Regiment attachments. Iraqi Police worked alongside the troops, setting up a defensive perimeter and rooftop observation points at the new police station, perched high atop the east bank of the Diyala River, and surrounding buildings.
Engineers from Task Force 82nd and North Dakota National Guard's Charlie Company, 141 Engineer Combat Battalion then cleared and leveled about 80,000 square feet of palm and orange groves that flanked the police station to clear fields of fire and accommodate a parking lot. They filled Hesco barriers surrounding the buildings, and laid about 600 meters of triple-strand concertina wire at the police station alone.
Because the palm and orange groves had to be cleared, a civil affairs team from the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion out of Danbury, Connecticut and attached to 1-6 was also on hand to talk with local residents and explain the claims process.
Soldiers from the 197th Military Police Company from the New Hampshire National Guard also lent a hand, setting up the Hesco barriers and emplacing concertina wire on top of them.
"We have a national guard unit here that's actually doing a lot of the work that they do back in their home state," said Solinsky. "It's not really their Army mission, but that's what they really do, operate heavy machinery, construction."
The operation went off almost without a hitch. On the second night of operations, Dec. 22, insurgents attacked the perimeter with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. However, Soldiers and Iraqi Police immediately returned fire and quickly subdued the attack, said Solinsky.
Although the project took a lot of coordination - and aspirin, joked Weeks - the addition of both a new police chief and director of operations, as well as the commitment shown by the Iraqi Police made the project possible.
"Pretty much through their influence, we were able to get civilian contractors down here today," he said. "It's not a very popular thing right now in some places, especially Buhriz, to show open support. So it takes a lot of nerve on the part of the IPs to step up and prove themselves."
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