BAGHDAD - With Iraqi election approaching, U.S. and Iraqi Soldiers began a four-day mission in the small town of Tarmiyah, Nov. 7.

American troops with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and their Iraqi Army counterparts see patrol operations as a key to stability in the northern areas of the capital, here.

"These searches and missions are to help the local Iraqi Army division build a healthy relationship with the local people in Tarmiyah," explained Woodbury, N.J., native Staff Sgt. Thomas Altersitz.

The elections in Iraq are quickly approaching and we want the local nationals to trust and feel comfortable with the IA, explained Fort Myers, Fla., native, Capt. Stephen Bourdon.

"Our goal is to disrupt the Iraqi al-Qaeda in the Tarmiyah area from placing tools harmful to
local nationals and the U.S. Soldiers, especially with the elections quickly approaching,"
Bourdon said.

This four-day mission puts pressure on the enemy and places an IA presence in the enemy's minds. The IA led the way to a very successful mission, Altersitz believes.

Every morning as the sun rose, IA and U.S. Soldiers patrolled together to show a presence in the Tarmiyah area, build a positive rapport and a sense of security with the residents in Tarmiyah.

"The IA have demonstrated themselves to be very capable in engaging the local populace," said South Bend, Ind., native Lt. Col. Scott Jackson, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cav. Regiment. "The respect they have shown has built confidence for the upcoming elections."

The IA engaged residents of all ages, conducted surveys and provided gifts such as soccer balls, candy, food, and water purifiers.

"We want the local people to know and understand that we aren't always coming to their door because they did something wrong," explains Altersitz. "We are trying to help the IA form good, strong relations with the local people."

During the morning patrols, the combined forces searched homes for counterfeit identification cards, illegal weapons or anything else criminal.

"The Iraqi Army is doing extremely well. They take initiative in leading the patrols, and searching homes, they are very proactive," Altersitz said about his counterparts. "They successfully and respectfully engage the people."

U.S. forces are supporting these IA-led operations.

"This is their face, their operation," Bourdon said about the missions. "We are just here to
help them enhance their image and provide force protection for the IA, so they can focus on the
primary mission and eventually operate on their own."

With the IA controlling the mission, it increases their motivation, explains Altersitz. They may not have perfected every angle of what needs to be accomplished, but they are learning and are doing well.

"[The IA] have the initiative and motivation to complete and conduct these missions," Bourdon explained. "They just need help with the planning and technicalities of the mission."

These operations have been successful and will continue as long as needed; before and after the elections, Jackson stated.

Page last updated Fri November 13th, 2009 at 12:36