Elections part of the big picture in Iraq
Capt. Carmen Paglio, operations officer for 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, discusses security with Iraqi security personnel Feb. 20, at the warehouse where ballots for the elections will be stored before and after the March 7 elections.

DHI QAR PROVINCE, Iraq (Feb. 27, 2010) -- Iraqi police are preparing themselves for the elections in Iraq. With the help of U.S. forces, they have been working to build a safe and secure environment, not only during the elections, but long after the last ballot is cast.

In the Dhi Qar Province in southern Iraq, local police forces have stopped their training for a time, and have begun preparing for the long election day ahead of them.

In an-Nasiriyah, warehouses are filled with ballots awaiting the day they will be shipped out all over the province. U.S. assessment teams have been checking these high-profile areas for cracks in security to prevent any terrorist activities that would hamper the election process.

"The warehouse stores ballots before and after casting," said Chuk Atun, the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team commander. Atun is in Iraq as a civilian working to get Iraqi police trained in more advanced criminal investigation techniques.

Security on the warehouse compound is complimented by guard towers and gates manned by Iraqi police who keep a watchful eye on the surrounding city.

When it comes to election day, many elements will be working together to ensure the safety of the locals.

Female Iraqi contractors have received training on searching women who come to the polling stations. Female U.S. Soldiers teach the classes, which will help prevent any suicide bombers from getting into the polling stations.

"We were tasked to teach them proper searching procedures," said Spc. Michele Williams, a radio repair specialist with Company F, 121st Brigade Support Battalion from Houston, Texas. "We got really involved; they were willing to learn."

The poll workers learned how to search quickly and efficiently, what to do when they come across contraband and how to do a secondary search if contraband has been found, Williams said.

At the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Nasiriyah, work is being completed on a classroom that can be used by the Iraqi Police to teach advanced police work, such as criminal investigations and searching techniques. It is a small step, but one which could improve the criminal investigations in the country.

"This will help better improve our relationships with the Iraqis," said 1st Lt. Patrick Sawicki, an engineer with the 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment's Police Transition Team.

In other places in the province, long-term work is being done to ensure lasting stability in the country after U.S. forces leave.

At Joint Service Station Soto, Muthanna Provincial Reconstruction Team members have held meetings with local government officials to discuss what is necessary to create a stable business environment.

"We run programs to create new businesses," said Michael Penney, the senior business development advisor for the Muthanna PRT.

In this meeting, Kareem Mohammed Ali, chairman of the Samawah Chamber of Commerce, laid out a list of business goals he hopes the U.S. can help to meet.

The primary goal at the moment is the construction of a business training center on an area of land set aside for such purposes. Architectural planning is being conducted to decide the financial cost, but it may become a joint effort between the U.S. military and the embassy, Penney said.

Getting "eyes on" like this helps U.S. forces determine small changes necessary to secure key areas. However, talks with Iraqi commanders do provide a long-term view on what needs to be done to sustain Iraqi forces.

In a meeting with Iraqi Col. Mohammad Abde Najim, the commander for the Iraqi Police regional training center for the Dhi Qar Province, Atun and Maj. Andrew Coleman, the PTT operations officer for 1st Battalion, 77th Armor, discussed further training after the elections for his police officers.

The Iraqi military and police forces have been requesting all of the help they can get from the U.S. and taking the training and advice to heart.

"We want to leave them better than we found them," Coleman said.

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