Public Affairs 
August 29, 2005

Iraqi highway patrol headquarters opens;
way ahead difficult, but ready for challenge

Story and photos by Sgt. Lynne Steely,18th Military Police Brigade
PAO
  

Members of the Iraqi Highway Patrol unfurl the national flag atop the new Iraqi Highway Patrol Headquarters in Baghdad August 25 in preparation for its grand opening ceremony.

BAGHDAD, Iraq The Iraqi Highway Patrol (IHP) officially opened its new headquarters during a ribbon-cutting ceremony August 25 in Baghdad.

The location was chosen in February by members of the 18th Military Police Brigade in coordination with the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq Civil Affairs and the IHP. The Iraqi government owned site was once a special police training compound under the former regime. Construction was underway by April and completed in late July.

The new headquarters is well received by the officers who officially moved in and began operations from it on July 30. The building previously occupied by the IHP consisted of four ramshackle rooms in a dilapidated building owned by the Baghdad Major Crimes Unit, located in an extremely dangerous neighborhood. The facility was a frequent target of insurgent attacks.

The new building has running water, flushing toilets and electricity; commonplace commodities for the average American, but a luxury for many Iraqi’s.  It is also more spacious, enabling the officers to conduct maintenance and small-scale training.

The cost of the renovation totaled approximately $2 million, part of the Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund allocated by U.S. Congress for rebuilding Iraq.  The project included the overhaul of eight buildings, 11 guard towers, a surrounding wall, new security gates, sewage system, water, and electricity. 

The Iraqi police are not the only ones to benefit from this large-scale project, however. Outlying communities have also gained many important, long-term advantages.

18th Military Police Brigade Civil Affairs Officer, Maj. Andy Johnson, bids farewell to Iraqi Highway Patrol Commissioner, Maj. Gen. Ali Al Khazali, August 25 following the grand opening ceremony of the new IHP headquarters in Baghdad.  The 18th MP Brigade, which has trained and mentored the IHP since December 2004, has transferred authority of all IHP operations to the 42nd MP Brigade out of Fort Lewis, Wash.

“There is now an increased police presence in a neighborhood that desperately needed it,” said Maj. Andy Johnson, civil affairs officer for the 18th MP Brigade. “The surrounding neighborhoods have also gained a working sewer system, running water and electricity.” The project has also provided employment to more than 200 Iraqi workers for more than five months, Johnson said.

The site is large enough for future expansion as Iraq’s security forces grow, and its location is ideal due to the ease of highway access and proximity to the local airport.

The violence facing this group of Iraqi police officers on a daily basis has now decreased to a degree. The headquarters is no longer positioned on a main highway as was the previous one, where drive-by shootings and small arms attacks were almost a daily occurrence.

This is a major step toward consolidating Iraqi control over the security of the main highways and commercial arteries in Iraq, Johnson said.

Johnson and his team monitored the construction process on a near daily basis and ensured there was adequate security at the site. Since December, the 18th has overseen the start of at least six other highway patrol stations which are currently under construction between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad. Upon completion, there will be one station located every 50-60 kilometers.

Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, MNSTC-I commander, gave a special thank you to Johnson and 18th Commander, Col. Jim Brown, for their tremendous efforts throughout the past year, helping to transform the IHP.

Petraeus also commended IHP Commissioner, Maj. Gen. Ali Al Khazali and the officers of the Highway Patrol for their spirit and dedication.

“The members of the IHP have demonstrated courage, initiative and determination. Under the command of Maj. Gen. Ali, they have come a long way in a short time.” Petraeus also stressed the importance of honesty, integrity and cooperation within the organization, with fair and impartial treatment to all Iraqi’s “to continue the already courageous path of the IHP.”

“The way ahead will be difficult,” Petraeus told them. “The enemies of democracy do not want to see Iraq improve. You have shown you are ready to meet the challenge. Let me say shukran (thank you) for your service to your country.”

Also in attendance were Maj. Gen. Ali Galeb, the Deputy Minister of Interior for Iraqi Police and Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, Commander of the Civilian Police Assistance Transition Team.

Following the ceremony, a traditional Iraqi feast was prepared both to commemorate the occasion as well as to bid farewell to the 18th MP Brigade who have handed over IHP operations to the 42nd Military Police Brigade.