Less than an hour south of the most intense urban combat seen in all of the Global War on Terror is a squadron of American paratroopers, quietly working alongside the Iraqi Federal Police and offering advice, guidance, and when necessary, American firepower.

LTC John Hawbaker, commander for 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, part of 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division says his experience working with the Iraqi Federal Police is a dramatic departure from his last time in Iraq. “Unlike in the past where I’ve helped Iraqi forces, 12 years ago, it’s night and day. They are a professional service, they are in charge, they have their own systems, and own methods – we just assist where we can.” He says.

Now jointly stationed with an Iraqi Federal Police Corps-level headquarters at Hamam al-Alil, Hawbaker and his subordinate commanders closely monitor the brutal fighting occurring just north of their position, where the Iraqi Security Forces are locked in deadly street fighting. It has come to be known as the Battle of Mosul, a fight that has no modern equivalent in its combination of 21st century technology and bloody trench warfare.

A member of the Iraqi Federal Police. Image courtesy of the Concord Monitor

“In the Old City of Mosul, it’s a three-dimensional maze, there aren’t really streets. Its 2 kilometers by 2 kilometers of thousand-year-old buildings that have sunk down, with other buildings built on top of them, so you have these networks of tunnels and alleyways,” where the fighting is taking place.