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Friday, August 24, 2007

Paratroopers check up on Shiite, Sunni neighborhood

ISKANDARIYAH — With the influence of Sunni and al-Qaeda pressing down from the North and West and Shia and Jaysh al-Mahdi rising from the South and East, the city of Iskandariyah straddles the fault line of sectarian violence.

The epicenter of sectarian tremors in the area is the Hateen Apartment complex, a neighborhood of more than 25,000 Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

Paratroopers from 1st Platoon, Company D, 3rd Battalion, 509th Airborne, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, and Military Policemen from 3rd Platoon, 127th MP Company are tasked to provide security in the area and keep extremist influence to a minimum.

“The militia has a pretty good hold over the Hateen Apartments by keeping the people in fear,” said 1st Platoon leader Capt. Paul Pena, of San Marcos, Texas, Co. D, 3-509th Abn. “Although, now our presence in this area is welcomed, and most of the local people are starting to help us, accepting the change.”

Even though Shiites outnumber the area’s Sunni’s roughly 70 to 30, this area has been relatively calm over the past months. First Platoon has conducted more than 40 missions in this area over recent months, and Paratroopers can see the difference that their hard work is making.

“We can tell that we are making a difference by the drop in violence in this area,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Brown, platoon sergeant, of Huntsville, Ala. “Now people are always coming out and thanking us for our help.”

Even though the area is a mix of Shiite and Sunni, most residents of the Hateen Apartments seem to get along just fine.

“I live across the hall from Sunnis,” said a Shiite resident of the Hateen Apartments. “We are all Iraqis, and we get along fine.”

With Shiites and Sunnis beginning to live in harmony in this area, and with violence on the decline, Paratroopers from 1st Platoon still will not get complacent.

“No matter what, I am always thinking of the task at hand,” said Pfc. Matt Lundberg, of Fayetteville, N.C. “Keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary and completing the mission.”

Now that the violence has subsided, the focus shifts to rebuilding.

“Along with searching for intelligence leads to militia activity, we also just sit and talk with the residents to see what we can do to help make their neighborhoods better,” Pena said. “We work closely with the Iraqi Security Forces and community leaders to help make their neighborhoods better and take responsibility for the future of their homes.”

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