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Colonel James Coffman - Someone You Should Know

In 2004, a certain group of Soldiers were sent out to find Iraqi Irregular forces (privately funded and privately led).  One of those Soldiers was Colonel James Coffman who found and began to work with the Special Police Commandos.  Coffman enlisted in the US Army in 1972 and would become a Mustange by attending West Point.  Below is the beginning of the story:

...the Special Police Commandos, was formed in September by Gen. Adnan Thavit, the uncle of Iraq's interim interior minister. The unit started with about 1,000 soldiers. When Col. James Coffman, a senior aide to Gen. Petraeus, found them they were occupying a heavily damaged Republican Guard base a few miles from the U.S. embassy. "It was basically 1,000 guys at the time living in a bombed-out building with no electricity, no plumbing and no bathrooms," the colonel says.

Col. Coffman, however, was struck by the unit's arms room, which was stocked with rocket-propelled-grenade launchers, mortar tubes and lots of ammunition. "The weapons were clean and organized," he says. He immediately went on a patrol with the unit and was impressed by both Gen. Thavit and his troops. The soldiers seemed to have a discipline that many of the U.S.-trained Iraqi Army units lacked.

The 63-year-old Gen. Thavit, an intelligence officer in the old Iraqi Air Force, attended military academies in the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia. In the mid-1990s he joined a small group of former officers plotting to overthrow Saddam Hussein. In 1996 their plan unraveled and Gen. Thavit was sentenced to life in Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison. Gen. Thavit and his second-in-command, Maj. Gen. Rashid Flayeh Mohammed, were both released by Mr. Hussein along with thousands of other political prisoners and common criminals just before the American invasion. One of Gen. Thavit's former jailers, who gave him food and cigarettes, is now a battalion commander in his new force.

On Col. Coffman's recommendation, Gen. Petraeus visited the Commandos' base and was impressed with the troops. "When I saw them and where they were living I decided this was a horse to back," the U.S. general says today. He agreed to give the fledgling unit money to fix up its base and buy vehicles, ammunition, radios and more weapons...

Of course, there are many risks associated with Irregulars, but, in this case, the benefits of shoring up Internal Defense outweigh them.

On August 24th, Colonel Coffman was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross - the second highest award for valor in the US Army - for his work last November with the Special Police Commandos:

Colonel receives DSC for leading Iraqi commandos
By Sgt. Lorie  Jewell

...Coffman, 51, is a senior adviser to Iraqi Special Police Commandos with the Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq's Civilian Police Assistance Training Team. He accompanied a Commando Quick Reaction Force with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Iraqi Special Police Commando Brigade on Nov. 14, 2004 to help a Commando platoon under attack in a Mosul, Iraq police station.

As the QRF approached the station, it was besieged with rocket-propelled grenades, small arms fire and mortar rounds. Coffman and the Commandos fought the terrorists for four hours before help arrived. When the initial firefight killed or seriously wounded all but one of the Commando officers, Coffman rallied the remaining Commandos while trying to radio for assistance, according to his award citation.

"Under heavy fire, he moved from Commando to Commando, looking each in the eye and using hand and arm signals to demonstrate what he wanted done," the citation said.

When an enemy round shattered his left shooting hand, damaging his M4 rifle in the process, Coffman bandaged it and continued fighting with AK-47 rifles he collected from Commando casualties until each ran out of ammunition. He also passed out ammunition to the uninjured Commandos with the help of the remaining Commando officer; when all that remained were loose rounds, Coffman held magazines between his legs and loaded the rounds with his good hand.

When a second Commando unit arrived four hours after the fight began, Coffman led them to his position and continued to fight, refusing to be evacuated for treatment until the battle was over. Not long after the Commando reinforcements arrived, air support and a Stryker Brigade Quick Reaction Force were on hand to assist to assist in the battle.

Coffman supervised the evacuation of injured Commandos and led another group of Commandos to the police station to make contact with the Iraqi Police inside. Once the additional air and ground support elements began attacking buildings the enemy forces were hiding in, Coffman went back to his initial position to check on the injured Commandos and then agreed to be evacuated for treatment. Twenty-five terrorists were killed and dozens injured....

Read more about Colonel Coffman here.

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