By Sgt. Cody Harding, USDS Public AffairsFebruary 18, 2010
The Wasit province, south of Baghdad, is home to more than 250 polling stations that will be used in the upcoming Iraqi Parliamentary Election. Schools, Libraries and other local buildings are set to house the voting booths where Iraqis will determine their next government representatives.
Although the primary security for the elections will be the Iraqi Police, U.S. forces continue to play a role in helping provide security to the province. For the 252nd Military Police Company of the Tennessee National Guard, the task of inspecting polling sites for security remains a priority.
"It's a coalition effort between ourselves and the Iraqi Police", said Staff Sgt. Brian Culberson, a 1st Platoon squad leader with the 252nd MP Co. "By us working with them, hopefully we can help ensure their polling sites have the security needed so they can have a safe election."
The 252nd MPs, based out of Contingency Operating Base Delta, have a lot of ground to cover, including the cities of al-Kut, al-Hay and Mufuquiya. There they connect with the local Iraqi Police to inspect sites, gain information on criminal activity in the area and catalog the identities of various criminals for future reference.
They also have become familiar with the location of the polling sites, in case the police force requests help from the MPs during the elections.
The role of the 252nd MPs, however, is a support role, in contrast with the active security provided by the Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army, who will secure the towns and polling sites for the election.
Staff Sgt. Culberson, from Cleveland, Tenn., said that the support for the elections has improved considerably since his deployment in 2005, when the last parliamentary elections took place.
"The people are a lot more receptive to it," he said. "The government has a better plan for protecting them, and I believe it'll be a success."
As well as checking polling stations, the MP company works with the Iraqi Police to profile criminals, placing them in a database so Iraqis can keep track of offenders.
Spc. Bradley Taylor, another Cleveland, Tenn. native, said that the Iraqi Security Forces' techniques have improved since his last deployment.
"There's been incidents where they needed to react, and they react quickly," said Taylor. "The relationship they're building with the community is also improving."
With the Iraqis taking the lead in the security of the elections, the MPs from the 252nd believe
that their counterparts are showing them the ability to stand on their own against the challenges of the election season.
"They're not going to need our help," Taylor said. "I think it's a great thing. It shows strength and courage in them to face this on their own without our help."