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Local Guard unit handling transfer of Iraqi prisoners

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
September 9, 2009

Members of a local Wisconsin Army National Guard unit are performing a task that is part of a major United States mission in Iraq: turning over operations to the Iraqis.


A few details of that task were mentioned in recent official communications from Wisconsin's 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, also known as the Red Arrow Brigade, whose 3,000 members are scattered across Iraq.


Alpha Company of the 132nd Support Battalion, based in Janesville and Elkhorn, comprises about 130 soldiers stationed at Camp Bucca in far southern Iraq.


Camp Bucca once had thousands of prisoners, making it the largest military prison in the world. Those prisoners are being steadily released or transferred to other U.S. prison camps.


Fewer than 800 prisoners are said to remain at Bucca.


Alpha Company soldiers have been part of the transfer process since June, according to a report sent to Wisconsin news media this week by Guard spokesman Lt. Col. William Donovan.


"These missions included transporting hundreds of detainees at a time from Camp Bucca to internment facilities in and around Baghdad," Donovan wrote.


An article posted on the Guard's Web site Aug. 27 described the job:


"Starting early in the morning, troops from Alpha Company watch over the detainees, making sure everything goes smoothly: processing paperwork, feeding detainees, escorting them to latrines, making sure they have plenty of water while they wait in the desert heat and quelling any problems that may arise.


"'The soldiers make sure the detainees are under control and that they are treated with respect,' said Staff Sgt. Anthony Masseur, Beloit. 'They follow the three C's: care, custody and control.'"


Another unit of the 32nd Brigade then escorts the prisoners as they ride a bus and then fly north to Camps Cropper or Taji, both U.S. facilities.


Some prisoners are destined for release, while others eventually will wind up in Iraqi prisons. Other members of the 32nd Brigade are inspecting those prisons to ensure the Iraqi facilities "meet minimum international standards," Donovan wrote.


The sensitive nature of the work was highlighted Aug. 19, when about 100 were killed in an explosion in Baghdad. The suicide truck bomber had been interned at Camp Bucca, a senior Iraqi investigator told the Associated Press.


News reports did not say when the bomber had been released, so it's possible that happened before Wisconsin soldiers arrived at Camp Bucca last April.


Wisconsin Guard members heard or saw the explosions Aug. 19, Donovan wrote, but none was injured.



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