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Iraqi Units Taking Lead in Election Security

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Dec. 13, 2005 – Iraqi security units are taking the lead in preparing for the Dec. 15 national elections.

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Army Capt. David Underwood (left) speaks with members of the Iraqi security forces outside a school in East Baghdad. The school will be a polling station for the Dec. 15 election and Underwood and his unit -- 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery -- are providing assistance. Photo by Jim Garamone
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

This is the third election this year, and each time the amount of support coalition forces provide has been less, military officials said.

The plan builds on experiences gained in the Jan. 30 National Assembly election and the Oct. 15 constitutional referendum. Iraqi police will provide close-in protection at the polling stations.

Iraqi public order battalions and Iraqi army soldiers will provide the next level of protection. This second ring of police and soldiers will search for suicide bombers and those who want to disrupt the election.

More Iraqi soldiers and coalition forces will be in a third ring of troops. These will provide a quick-reaction force if needed.

But coalition forces are aiding the effort in other ways as well. Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, are a microcosm of the effort. Today, soldiers escorted a wrecker to place Jersey barriers at polling stations.

"The barriers channel the people into and out of the centers," said Army Capt. David Underwood, commander of B Battery, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery.

While at the stations, Underwood also eyed other preparations for the voting. He received short briefings from police commanders on the number of police at the stations, vehicles they have, weapons they have and methods of contacting them. "Each time we have done this, the police have gotten better," Underwood said.

Preparations are ahead of previous elections, he said. For example, in many places concertina wire had already been delivered and emplaced. "We had to deliver it in October, and then it was the last minute," he said.

One polling station commander had even placed the Jersey barriers without calling on the American wrecker. "I have no idea how he did this, but the major in charge got it done," Underwood said. "He also has a full complement (of police) in place."

More supplies remain to be delivered. Wands for searching for explosives and more concertina wire are at the top of the list. The police will conduct sweeps of the polling stations and the areas around them.

In other election security preparations, Iraqi officials have imposed a 10 p.m. curfew beginning tonight until after the election. All vehicular traffic will stop beginning at 6 a.m. Dec. 14, and Iraqi officials have cut off movement between provinces and from neighboring countries.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Capt. David Underhill takes notes outside an Iraqi polling station. Underhill, the commander of B Battery 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, is helping Iraqi security forces ready for the Dec. 15 election. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThird Infantry Division soldiers stand watch following placement of Jersey barriers near an Iraqi police station. The posters pasted on the barrier are for candidates in the Dec. 15 elections. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAn Iraqi policeman mans a machine gun atop the roof of a polling station in Baghdad. Iraqi security forces are readying for the Dec. 15 elections. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSoldiers of the 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, steer a Jersey barrier into place near an Iraqi polling station. The soldiers, part of the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, helped Iraqi police seal off polling stations in East Baghdad from the danger of car bombs. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA 2nd Brigade Combat Team soldier stands guard near an Iraqi polling station. The soldier, part of the 3rd Infantry Division, helped the Iraqis lift Jersey barriers into place. The Iraqi police will use the Jersey barriers to channel voters. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSoldiers of B Battery, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, listen to a pre-mission briefing before heading out Dec. 13 to prepare for the Iraqi elections. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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