Keeping watch on critical pieces
Maj. Andrew Coleman, operations officer, Police Transitional Team, 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, inspects some of the old oil pumping equipment at a pumping station in Al Khidr, Iraq, Feb. 20, 2010. New equipment currently operates to push crude oil and natural gas to Basra for refining.

While election season comes around for Iraq, security has been subjected to scrutiny by both U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Outside of the city of Al Khidr, Soldiers are working with the Iraqi Police to check vulnerabilities at some of the more important locations.

"The mission was to go out and recon the oil pipeline pumping station and to conduct vulnerability assessments on the security of the pumping station," said Maj. Edward Coleman, operations officer, Police Transitional Team, 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment.

During the inspection of an oil pumping station, Coleman spoke to the police commander about everything from the strength of the front gate to how often guards are switched out in the towers.

Al Khidr has one of four pumping stations in the region that move crude oil and natural gas through underground pipelines to refineries in Basra Province for processing.

"This oil refinery is a major concern for all of the Iraqis," said Chukwuemeka Atum, Civilian Police Assistance Training Team commander for the Dhi Qar and Muthanna Provinces. "It would slow the process down if this refinery was attacked."

Currently, the pipeline is fully operational, but Iraqi forces requested U.S. support to check for any vulnerability as the national elections approach.

After the pumping station, the team moved out to a warehouse in the city that will store ballots before and after the elections.

The survey team wasn't allowed into the warehouse, but checked guard towers and barriers around the compound to maintain a watchful eye.

It normally does not take long for corrections to be made, especially with elections on the way, Atum said.

"I suggested more manpower at the gate. They also need some kind of barriers," he said.

The visit was timely because it gives local police enough time make any necessary changes.

"In our role as advising and assisting we will recommend to their higher headquarters that these deficiencies have been noted," Coleman said.

Afterward, the Iraqi command will do what they can to fix the issues. If they need support, they need only to ask, Coleman said.

"We step in and try to assist them and provide them that barrier material or the means to move them into place," he said.

Survey teams like this have been working all over Iraq to help military and police forces with the daunting task of helping to stabilize key points of interest in the country.

While the Iraqis are open to both help and advice, they are already active in protecting these key locations.

"In order to get past that gate, they said we needed authorization," Atum said. "We presented them with an authorization letter. However, they still made a call to their superiors to see if we did have authorization."

The team waited fifteen minutes before they were allowed entrance into the pumping station.
"To second guess, it shows they are doing their jobs," Atum said.

During the elections, Iraqi police will be guarding the polling stations while Iraqi Army soldiers will stay outside of the cities, ready to act in the event of a surprise strike.

The national elections will take place March 7. The police and military will be allowed to cast their ballots earlier in the month so they are able to work during the elections.

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