AL HILLAH, Iraq (Feb. 24, 2010) -- Soldiers of the 69th Armor Regiment and Iraqi Security Forces in Babil Province have joined forces to ensure the safety of Iraqi citizens during the upcoming March 7 national elections, only the second such elections since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

"Our role during the elections is to help with election site security," said Capt. Matthew McDonald, "Bayonet" Company commander, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor. "There's 52 of them in my AO [area of operations]."

Bayonet Company platoon leaders are partnered with Iraqi Army company commanders and McDonald works with an Iraqi Army battalion commander on a daily basis.

"We work together to do joint mission planning," McDonald said, "To build individual skill training in their soldiers, to build collective skill training in their leaders and to synchronize their staff efforts for intelligence and operations."

Staff Sgt. Nicholas White, a squad leader in B Company, trains with his Iraqi counterparts to address various security situations that might arise at election sites.

"[Some days] we'll take the squad out, from one of the companies we were working with, and do MEDEVAC classes or how to establish a traffic control point," he said.

McDonald said he is confident in the ISF's abilities and cited their recent successes during the religious holidays of Ashura and Arba'een.

As is customary during Arba'een, many Muslims made the pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala, in southern Iraq.

"We've been extremely proud of our ISF partners," McDonald said, "Before the elections, they went after the violent extremist network cells and during both holidays they were out in force, manning checkpoints 24-7, [which lent] itself to a really successful event down here."

To ensure election-site security is just as successful, the Iraqi and U.S. forces will have to work together, McDonald said.

"We will bring all the ISF partners in and we will all get on the same sheet for the security plan," he said.

Whatever the plan, the Soldiers of Bayonet Company will be in the background during the elections, said White.

"The only thing we are really going to do is assist the ISF in making sure [the Iraqi people] have nice places where they're not worried about the repercussions of expressing their opinions," he said.

McDonald is optimistic about the elections.

"I think the elections will go smoothly," he said. "I think the Iraqis here are very excited about exercising their new right to vote. They want to be heard, they want to voice their opinion, so I think the turnout will be really good down here."

Although the elections are a major step for the country, they are not the culminating event for the Soldiers of Bayonet Company.

McDonald is already considering the next mission for his Soldiers.

"I think the critical time will be the post-election period as the new government takes control," he said, "[We hope] that everything goes peacefully and that the new parties that are elected don't have a lot of fallout with supporters of the old parties."

Babil is one of the nine provinces that make up United States Division - South.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16