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Got whiskers? Iraqis will notice

US officers say that building relationships with Iraqi security forces includes doing small things as well as the bigger, more obvious ones.

By Jane ArrafCorrespondent / September 28, 2009

Capt. Allen Trujillo, shown here with Iraqi police officer Haider Luaiby Anbar, grew a mustache to better fit in with the Iraqi officers he works with.

Jane Arraf

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AMARAH, IRAQ - Among the challenges of being redeployed to Iraq, one that Capt. Allen Trujillo least expected was the need to grow a mustache.

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But Trujillo of Chimayo, N.M., (at right in photo, with Iraqi police officer Haider Luaiby Anbar) has done just that to bond with the Iraqi officers he works with in the first of the US Advisory and Assistance Brigades intended to be the future of the American presence here.

To read more about the AABs, a new model in US-Iraq cooperation, click here.

While the concept of this new brigade was designed at the military’s highest levels, it’s the young officers and noncommissioned officers on the ground who will determine its success. Most of the Americans are here on their second or third deployments, but unlike previous missions this one depends on forging trust with their Iraqi counterparts.

Trujillo, commander of Commanche Company, 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, plans to give the daughter he’s expecting an Arabic middle name after the daughter of the provincial police general with whom he works.

When it comes to facial hair – a display of masculinity in Iraq – it’s apparently the effort that matters.

“No one took him seriously two weeks ago,” says Trujillo, pointing to the wispy beginnings of a ginger mustache (in stark contrast to a shaved head) on platoon leader Thomas Gossweiler.

“It’s true,” says Lt. Gossweiler, of Holbrook, N.Y. Visiting the Iraqi police chief, the US officers joke with their Iraqi counterparts as if they’re old friends.

For Trujillo, this mission is a way of coming to terms with some of the losses of previous deployments. He pushed to name Amarah’s joint security station after Lt. Mark Daily, who was killed in Mosul in 2007 shortly after writing an essay saying he had joined the Army because Americans had a responsibility to help the oppressed.

“He would have wanted to be here – to see it full circle from where we’ve come,” says Trujillo.

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