The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) presented the FLEOA Group Achievement Award to 34 special agents from the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) for defending the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq, against direct and indirect attacks during 24 hours of sustained unrest in August 2022.

On August 29, 2022, Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist Movement and influential Iraqi politician and militia leader, announced his official “retirement” from Iraqi politics. Following this announcement, protesting Sadrists began to organize across the country. What began as protests and unrest turned into open fighting on the streets of Baghdad between rival militia groups. Over the course of 24 hours, escalating violence entered the International Zone, where 3,000 U.S. personnel lived and worked at the U.S. Embassy Compound in Baghdad (BEC). Their safety and well-being, as well as the security of the compound, were under the protection of the Embassy’s Regional Security Office (RSO), as well as the DSS special agents and other security personnel deployed there.

As darkness fell, the violence – including small arms fire, grenades, tear gas and rocket launchers – moved ever closer to the BEC and its personnel. Dense clouds of smoke and persistent audible gunfire could be seen and heard by residents of the area. While a curfew was in effect for most embassy staff, the RSO team, which had been closely monitoring the situation throughout the day, took up defensive positions around the BEC.

During the night and the following morning, embassy personnel responded to numerous cover alerts as rocket rounds and small arms fire increased and struck directly at the embassy grounds, including multiple strikes on combat positions manned by RSO security personnel. As fighting continued in the city, RSO teams continued to move around the compound in accordance with their duties, ensuring the safety and well-being of all embassy personnel.

The nomination for the award states: “Security personnel under the command of the RSO were deployed in full combat readiness in danger zones and under constant threat of fire to hold their posts and ensure the integrity of the compound while repelling sustained small arms and indirect fire (IDF). ) over the course of the conflict.”

This rhythm of intense fighting around the BEC continued until the afternoon of August 30, when al-Sadr gave a speech calling for an end to the violence. The RSO Baghdad team successfully defended the U.S. Embassy and ensured the safety of U.S. personnel during this 24-hour period of violent conflict. Their efforts and willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to protect the residents of the BEC resulted in no casualties or injuries and only property damage to some embassy buildings.

DSS has the largest global footprint of any U.S. law enforcement agency, operating in more than 270 U.S. diplomatic missions in over 170 countries and in over 30 U.S. cities. The organization is responsible for investigating transnational crimes and protecting State Department facilities, people, and information.

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