Soldiers Prepare for Iraqi Elections
By Army Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq, Dec. 17, 2009 With Iraq’s national elections approaching, U.S. soldiers are preparing to support the Iraqi army and police while remaining in the background.
Four women from Najaf, Iraq, walk down the street as U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, drive past during a reconnaissance mission, Dec. 3, 2009. The soldiers were checking out polling sites in the area for Iraq’s upcoming elections. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, who are responsible for assisting Iraqi forces in and around Najaf, take that mission seriously.
Coordination of the elections for Najaf has been organized by Iraqi police and army units, said Army Capt. Neil Pentilla, commander of 1st Battalion’s “C” Company. The company is stationed at Forward Operating Base Endeavor outside Najaf, and Pentilla said he and his soldiers try to stay in the background as much as possible. “It’s the Iraqi plan,” he said. “We’re incorporated into that plan as a safety net. We go on their command.”
During the elections, the U.S. battalion will provide enablers -- intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, for example -- to the Iraqi army and police. The soldiers also will be ready to provide support at the Iraqi commander’s request.
As part of a reconnaissance mission, soldiers of “C” Company traveled to various polling sites in Najaf on Dec. 3, recording their locations and ensuring they will be accessible during the elections.
Pentilla said he feels confident in the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces in Najaf, and that his confidence extends to his soldiers’ readiness if they are called.
(Army Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick serves with the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)