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National Elections Set Milestone for Iraqi Security Forces

By Spc. Dan Balda, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Dec. 16, 2005 – The day seemed downright festive: children marched in impromptu parades, men wore suits -- on their day off, no less -- and entire families took long walks from their homes to polling sites.

The Iraqi parliamentary elections Dec. 15 gave Iraqis a chance to showcase the pride they have in their country and the hope they have for the future, officials here said.

"Nationalism is defined by the actions of the people," said Maj. Ross Coffman, 4th Brigade Combat Team executive officer. "It only takes a moment to see their faces as they vote, to see their pride, not only because they are voting, but because they are part of something bigger. That is promising. Not only for the efforts we've made, but also for the future of the country."

The future seems to be the center of Coffman's focus, and for good reason.

"Today, they chose their leaders for the next four years," Coffman said. "If someone chooses to vote as many did, they chose to vote because they believe in the future of their country. It's another step for democracy for this country, but it also shows that Iraqis believe in their future."

Hundreds of thousands of Baghdad residents were able to vote mainly because of the security at polling stations provided by Iraqi security forces.

Coffman said violence stayed at or below normal levels. There were a few terrorist attacks with improvised explosive devices and isolated indirect fire incidents, but otherwise election day was very safe, he said. This can be directly attributed to the ISF, who took the lead on all matters electoral.

"The ISF took the front, just as they have for the last two elections," Coffman said. "Basically this was run by Iraqis -- the polls and the security -- and the Americans were there in case something happened and they needed our assistance. (Dec. 15) was another milestone in the ISF's capabilities. They were able to secure numerous sites across the country and prevent anti-Iraqi forces from influencing those sites."

Staff Sgt. James Bryant, a team leader with B Company, 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, was especially heartened by the performance of the ISF. He has been part of a military transition team training ISF members since August. He ran into a number of his former trainees during a foot patrol through Karradah during the election.

"It's great seeing these men out here, because they are like my own soldiers," he said. "When you train up the new guys in your unit, and you see them excel, it's a good feeling to see them out there and see that they are using all the skills they've learned and (are) doing their job. It's going to make a big difference for this country's future."

Coffman was heartened by the actions of the troops on this monumental occasion.

"The job the Iraqis and our forces have done is nothing short of amazing," he said. "The Military Transition Teams and Special Police Training Teams that have stood beside the Iraqi forces during training and mission execution over the last year will carry Iraqi security in the future for the next five to 10 years.

"It's an honor being part of America's team here in Iraq," he continued, "standing side by side with Iraq's team making sure that this is a safe place for the Iraqi people." (Army Spc. Dan Balda is assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team public affairs.)

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