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Paratroopers Dig in on Haifa Street

Baghdad, Iraq
-- Haifa Street, the infamous neighborhood in Baghdad, has been the site of near constant wild west-style shoot-outs and gun battles between insurgents and Multi-National Forces.

Now Haifa Street is the new home for a company of 82nd Airborne Division Paratroopers. They've been working hard on their new digs, a formerly vacant palatial residence.

Paratroopers from Company B of the 82nd's 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, and Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Battalion, 9th Regiment, seized and secured the vacant palace in a Christmas week operation they called Field of Dreams.

The purpose of the operation was to fortify the palace so it can be used as a base from which to conduct aggressive operations against the insurgents, said Sgt. Michael Cooper of Company B.

The operation began on Christmas Eve. All that night, while snipers kept a lookout from the rooftops of nearby buildings, Kiowa Warrior helicopters circled overhead, and Bradley Fighting Vehicles rumbled up and down the surrounding streets. Combat engineers from the 82nd worked to build up the palace's defenses.

Engineers used cranes to ring the grounds of the palace with massive protective concrete barriers. They also removed trees, set up fighting positions, strung concertina wire and covered the top of the building with camouflaged netting.

The insurgents in the area didn't exactly roll out the welcome mat for their new neighbors. They attacked repeatedly throughout the operation with small arms fire and mortars.

"There were small firefights going on constantly," said Pvt. Jeff Tesiny of Company B. "It was pretty intense. You didn't know when an attack was coming; you just knew it was coming."

All in all, it was a memorable Christmas Eve, said Company B's top non-commissioned officer, 1st Sgt. Scott Busma.

"That one will be kind of hard to forget," he said.

Over the following days, the Paratroopers continued to reinforce the palace. They stacked hundreds of sandbags in front of the doors and windows, put a machine gun nest on the second floor balcony and established multiple observation posts throughout the area.

"For now, we just want to get the place secure enough so that we can come inside and chill out when we're not out on patrols," Cooper said.

By the end of the week, the mission was accomplished. Although they were still without heat, electricity and running water, most of the Paratroopers seemed happy with their new living arrangements.

"I'm liking this place," said Sgt. David Frost of Company B. "If we've done all this in a few days, imagine what we can do in a month."

Local insurgents may have been imagining the same thing. In the days after the palace was occupied and patrols began hitting the streets, the number of attacks on U.S. forces fell off dramatically.

"It's funny, when the Eight-Deuce shows up, everyone just clears out or gets their act together," Frost said.

Frost and the other Paratroopers from Company B know they still have a long way to go before Haifa Street is totally pacified, but they have confidence in their ability to get the job done. A few days after the company moved into the palace for good, someone taped a hand-scrawled sign up on the door.

It said "Haifa Street Police."

The message to the criminals and terrorists in the neighborhood was clear: There's a new sheriff in town. (Story by Pfc. Mike Pryor, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)

Release #050107f

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