Protecting the future of Iraq: Soldiers prepare for elections
February 3, 2010
- The future of Iraq will be decided when Iraqi voters head to the polls March 7
NASIR WA SALAM, Iraq -- The future of Iraq will be decided when Iraqi voters head to the polls March 7 and the Iraqi Security Forces are training to ensure those polling stations are safe.
The 24th Brigade, 6th Division Military Transition Team, along with Soldiers from Company B, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, conducted polling-center security training here for members of the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police Jan. 28.
"This training is important because the safety of the voters and the voting centers is our number one priority," said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Mattherly, a San Antonio, Texas, native, and transition team noncommissioned officer in charge of training.
The three-day training brought together members of the Iraqi army and police and instructed them on ethics while working the polling site, searching vehicles and people. The people searches included special considerations when searching female voters.
"First, the ethics portion of the training addressed situations that we hope never occurs at the voting sites, but we still had to discuss them," said Mattherly. "We talked (about) how not to bribe the voters, accept bribes, and the consequences of those actions."
Many of the soldiers and police officers gained a better comprehension of the moral obligations they have to the Iraqi citizens.
"The ethics training was very important for our people," said Sgt. Hider, an Iraqi Army soldier. "I learned a lot, and it was just as important as searching people and vehicles."
At some polling sites, roads that lead up to voting centers may be closed to add an extra level of security during voting, but the training still covered the proper procedures on searching a vehicle.
"I knew how to search vehicles before this, so this was a refresher for me," said Muhammad Siad, an Iraqi policeman.
To simulate how voters will be searched and how the day should flow, a mock voting center was created for the training, with Soldiers playing the role of eager voters.
"Before the 'voters' could go inside the area to vote, the Iraqi soldiers and police officers searched them for possible hidden weapons," said Mattherly. "Most of the voters that went through the checkpoint were clean, but we planted a weapon on one voter to see if they would find it, and they did."
The U.S. Soldiers said all-in-all they were extremely confident in their Iraqi counterparts' abilities to protect voters on election day.
"The Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police came together, took this training," said Mattherly, "and ran with it."