AL-KUT, Iraq (March 10, 2010) -- In 2005, faced with staunch resistance from extremists looking to overthrow the government, Coalition Forces provided security for Iraqis as they elected their new leaders.

Five years later, the role of U.S. forces has changed dramatically.

The Iraqi Army and police - once fledgling forces - provided the security for the March 7 national elections.

The Iraqi police searched cars as they entered and exited the city, provided security at polling sites, and used air assets to provide surveillance for ground forces.

In the city of al-Kut, Wasit Province, members of the 252nd Military Police Company, a U.S. Army National Guard unit based out of Cleveland, Tenn., provided support to the Iraqi Police during the elections. They served as a quick reaction force to respond to emergencies and inspected checkpoints with the help of K-9 units.

Cpl. Randall Baldwin, 252nd MP Co., a Cleveland, Tenn. native, said that placing the security of the elections in the hands of Iraqis signals a large step forward in their ability to ensure safety in the country.

"If you have your own people running your own government issues, it's a big step," said Boldin.

Staff Sgt. Ian Spivey, an Air Force K-9 handler from the 6th Security Forces, based at McGill Air Force Base, Fla., said that this deployment is a lot more peaceful than his other three deployments.

"I've been over here since 2004, and every year has changed," said Spivey. "You see more and more presence as they're slowly taking over, which is good for us."

Boldin said that the Iraqis have been willing to take security into their own hands, and the elections will allow them to prove they can.

"Ever since we've arrived, they've had a really strong will to do things themselves," said Boldin. "They've said 'look at us, we can do this', and from what I've seen, the Iraqi police are taking the initiative and doing the job they're supposed to be doing."