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Minnesota National Guard
Landscaper goes from treating lawns to Soldiers

ANAH, Iraq " Back home in Brainerd, Minn, this Minnesota Army National Guardsman treats lawns as a landscaper Here in this 5,000 year-old city of about 20,000 people, Pfc Adam Starry is tasked with treating his fellow Soldiers and several Iraqi Policemen

Starry of Company B, 194th Combined Arms Battalion, has been in the Guard for almost three years as a medic

"I kind of wanted to experience the medical field,"� he said a few hours after he and several of his fellow Guardsmen meandered through the streets of the city on a joint security/intelligence patrol in the city with the IPs

Starry and his fellow Soldiers, numbering about 15, also are experiencing what it is like being an IP in a city that is still a "hotbed of insurgent activity" They form a Police Transition Team whose task is to train the IPs to learn how to take control of their own communities and keep order Training includes learning basic organizational skills, leadership mentoring, and patrolling and search and seizure techniques

Starry, who said he gets an adrenaline rush every time he goes on a patrol, admitted that working with the IPs can be frustrating at times because of the language barrier "But it is definitely inspiring and exciting, he said "They amaze me more and more each day"

The PiTT is able to watch this transformation because it shares the same floor of a building in the city as the IPs There is a Marines headquarters here too in this former sports complex

A newly promoted IP lieutenant said he loves being a policeman and he hopes for peace "We're here to help you guys,"� he said

Case in point: At a gas station, he arrested a citizen who attempted to bribe him He told the man, "No bribes accepted here"� as he tore the money up

He also said that he joined the force for several reasons, including his belief in his country, personal honor, and wanting to protect his family and the Iraqi people

Spc Brent Haataja, a carpenter from Menahga, Minn, said he also has noticed that the IPs "work pretty hard to try and do good"

The team's officer in charge and a Fargo, ND, policeman, 2nd Lt Vitaly Sherbina, said he has met IPs from Rawah and Baghdad but they weren't as motivated as the Anah force

"These guys motivate us and tell us this mission is possible," said Sherbina, who came to the United States in 1999 from Russia and became an American citizen after Sept, 11, 2001 "These guys are doing everything to take control of the situation"

The team's noncommissioned officer in charge, Sgt Jon Morris of Salisbury, NC, expanded on this statement He said the IP leadership tells his team where they want to go on patrols

Morris said the IPs haven't led any of these patrols or raids yet though

"They want their town cleaned up of the insurgency,"� he said

Trust between the the PiTT team and the IPs has already been built too

"There is not a guy in the room right now that I wouldn't stand in front of or let stand behind me," said Morris

Sherbina said, "I can risk my life for any of these guys"

This bond seems to be getting stronger every day too

Cpl William Parker of Redwood Falls, Minn, said the IPs are very friendly "They always want us to come over and hang out with them,"� he said

Spc Mark Belcourt, 19, of Hastings, Minn, "hangs out"� with the IPs frequently The night after the patrol, he was interacting with about 10 of the IPs talking about what any young Soldier talks about He also is the youngest Soldier in the company

"I want to try and learn Arabic as much as possible, said Belcourt, whose mother is a sergeant in the Minnesota Army National Guard's 34th Infantry Division "(The IPs) treat you with such respect"

By Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Wood, 1/34th BCT Public Affairs
April 4, 2007
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