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Iraqi Police, U.S. Soldiers Strengthen Bonds with Medals, Soccer

American Forces Press Service

TIKRIT, Iraq, May 19, 2009 – Nine Iraqi police officers at two stations in Kirkuk city received U.S. Army Achievement Medals awarded by the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, May 14.

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Army Lt. Col. Terry Cook, right, faces off against an Iraqi police officer during a soccer match at a police station in Kirkuk, Iraq, May 14, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Justin Naylor
  

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The first five awards went to police officers who maintain safety of the city through effective patrolling.

Army Lt. Col. Terry Cook, the battalion commander, said it's vital that the Iraqi police continue to work hard, as insurgent activity still exists in the city. He cited the case of a suicide bomber's attempted attack at a local mosque that the police thwarted.

The medal recipients are working to set an example for other members of the Kirkuk police, and they are teaching themselves and their U.S. partners what it means to serve tirelessly, Cook said.

"They do this and they serve without asking to be recognized," he explained. "These medals are our way of saying, ‘Thank you,’ not just for what you do for the city of Kirkuk, but also for helping U.S. military forces who work in the city as well."

The Kirkuk police commander, Maj. Gen. Jamal Tahir Bakir, expressed his pride in the police force in general, and the medal recipients in particular.

"I am very proud of everyone, especially these five," he said. "Not just for what they are doing daily, but also for what they have sacrificed for their city. I hope and believe that other [police officers] are going to follow these five as an example for how to serve and protect the city."

The police commander also took the chance to elaborate on how his police officers are responding to the insurgency within the city.

"Terrorists who try to hurt us do not affect our morale," he said. "Our morale comes from doing our best to fight these insurgents, and we will not hesitate to sacrifice ourselves for our service and our country."

With the support of various police and military agencies around the province, the police will defeat terrorism in Kirkuk, he added.

For the police officers who received the awards, the event was a rare opportunity.

"I volunteered to be [a police officer] so I could serve my country," said Sgt. Rafeeq Qadir Khidir. "We are doing our best, and it is great that we are being appreciated."

After finishing the first award ceremony, the U.S. soldiers moved to another station, where police officers from the vehicle maintenance section were recognized.

"You work extremely hard, but you barely get recognized," Cook told the four maintainers. "You make it happen behind the scenes." Police missions could not get accomplished within the city without the work of the police who maintain the vehicles, he added.

"It is important to recognize anyone that is doing a good job," Cook continued. "We let them know, 'Hey, you guys aren't going unnoticed.'"

Following the award presentations, the U.S. soldiers were treated to a friendly soccer match against their police counterparts.

"It was a great game," said 1st Lt. Danema Fatha Zaneel, a maintenance officer at the police station. "It is great that U.S. military forces could reward these policemen, and also make time to play soccer with us."

Although the soldiers lost to the policemen 5-4, it was still a relationship-building experience on both sides.

"We are building camaraderie and relationships, and it is great that we get to get out and have fun together," said Army Capt. Stephen Clark, the battalion information officer.

After the match, the soldiers returned to Forward Operating Base Warrior and the police officers continued with their work in the city, nine with a shiny new medal in their pockets, and more with a victory on the soccer field fresh in their minds.

(From a Multinational Division North news release.)

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Related Sites:
Multinational Corps Iraq

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Lt. Col. Terry Cook awards the U.S. Army Achievement Medal to an Iraqi policeman who maintains vehicles at a police station in downtown Kirkuk, Iraq, May 14, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Justin Naylor  
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