By Sgt. Neil McCabe, 17th Fires Public AffairsMarch 8, 2010
Task Force Thunderbolt Soldiers and Sailors briefed the commanding general of the Iraqi Army's Basra-based 14th Division at the taskforce's headquarters at Contingency Operating Base Basra, March 1, on their plans to support him in ensuring a successful national election March 7.
"This was a great briefing," said Staff Maj. Gen. Aziz Noor Swady Al-Dalmy, whose division will take the lead in securing Basra Province during the elections.
The 14th Div. is the security partner of 17th Fires Brigade, which is deployed to Basra from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Combined with Navy and other Army elements, the brigade operates in Basra province as TF Thunderbolt.
The 14th IA Div. general was joined by Brig. Gen. Randal A. Dragon, deputy commanding general for sustainment for United States Division-South and 1st Infantry Division, Col. Steven L. Bullimore, commander, 17th FiB, and Col. Ali Zahidy, the operations officer for the Basra Operations Command - the 14th IA Div.'s higher command.
In addition to the briefers, representatives attended from the United Kingdom's Basra consulate, the United Nations, the European Union, the U.S. State Department and other military services.
The presentation was detailed and well thought-out, Dalmy said. At the small reception afterward, Dalmy told Bullimore that he was impressed by the professionalism of the brigade's noncommissioned officers, who were among the presenters.
"One day my own NCO's will be able to do the same thing," he said.
During the briefing, the presenters stood in front of a 20-foot by 30-foot full-color satellite photograph of roughly 75 percent of Basra Province, an area where nearly 90 percent of its population lives. The image, which served as a high resolution "sand table," was assembled from four strips and taped to the floor.
There was a flyover-effect as buildings, streets and even boats plying the Shatt al-Arab waterway were clearly visible in the image.
To create better visual context, Sgt. Maj. Christopher House, the brigade's operations sergeant major, placed laminated placards with small black mounts on the image to mark key locations such as COB Basra, the Basra Operations Center, the 14th Div. headquarters at Joint Security Station Wessam, medical facilities and the locations of election observers. Polling places of significant interest were designated by short, white dowels.
Led by the 17th FiB's operations officer, Maj. Kevin L. Jackson, the briefers described their plans and concerns to Dalmy, and, with the green dots of their laser pointers, demonstrated their proposed movements on the province's roads and maritime arteries.
During a presentation on the use of military working dogs at voting locations, Zahidy interrupted the briefer to make a point with Dalmy, who was sitting at the opposite side of the image. The briefing paused as the two Iraqi officers conversed vibrantly in Arabic, while Dragon and Bullimore nodded with approval as they followed the discussion through an interpreter whispering behind their seats.
After the briefing, Zahidy said he was expressing his concern to Dalmy as to how security inspections could be conducted if voting locations were sealed off when the ballots arrived.
When the briefers had completed their presentations, Jackson opened the forum for the three senior officers to ask other questions and make their own remarks about the briefing and the job ahead.
After thanking the briefers and complimenting the work they presented, Bullimore said his main guidance to the men and women of his taskforce was to continue to refine their plans and to make sure they were in the right posture with their Iraqi Security Force partners.
"Be ready, stand by and stay out of the way," he said.
During his comments, Dragon said, "We are enabling a very capable Iraqi force. In the end, it is the ISF who will make this election successful."
The security situation in Iraq has improved greatly compared to what Dragon saw in his previous service here, he said. But the security challenges have become more complex.
"Remember, our common threat is devious," Dragon said.
In his own remarks, Dalmy said his soldiers were ready, but he was relying on U.S. forces to act as additional eyes and ears on the ground.
"The most important thing is to let us know as soon as possible -any emergency, and you will see the Iraqi Army respond strongly," he said. "Then, we will call the Americans for assistance-for which we are very grateful."