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Friday, July 23, 2004

Iraqi soldiers out on their own

July 23, 2004
For the olive-green pickup truck, it was just one small stretch of road. For the half-dozen Iraqi men and one woman seated inside the cabin and flatbed, it was one giant leap.

For the first time since the announcement of sovereignty, the squad of young soldiers of the new Iraqi National Guard ventured out onto the streets without a U.S. Army escort.

The mission one recent day: Escort a busload of young recruits from the Muthana Airport base to Camp Sara, another base on the other side of town.

A giant Iraqi flag waved from their vehicle. A young gunner sat holding a machine gun. Pedestrians gawked. Onlookers waved, laughed or stared bewildered at the sight of Iraqi soldiers with no Americans in sight.

"Finally, my soldiers are patrolling on their own, without Americans," says Lt. Col. Heydar Abdul Rasool, commander of an Iraqi National Guard unit. "The flag of Iraq on the pickup was for them a sign of independence." FR Reprint.

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