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10th Mountain Soldiers Witness Historic Vote, Work With Iraqi Army

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2005 – Since soldiers of 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, took over operations in the Khadamiyah district in western Baghdad Sept. 10, they've been conducting patrols every day, contributing to the security of Iraq.

Oct. 15 was not much different from any other day except that these 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, soldiers had an opportunity to witness a historic event - Iraqis voting in a democratic constitutional referendum.

"It was great to see the Iraqis get the chance to express their opinions," said Army Pfc. Francesco Borsellino, of B Troop, 1/71 Cav. "The Iraqi army and Iraqi police displayed themselves professionally and were well disciplined. Their performance was excellent."

Army Pfc. Warren Lewis, also of B Troop, attributed the performance of the Iraqi security forces to "all their hard work and dedication." He said Oct. 15 was "a memorable time" in his life and could be "a turning point" in history.

"It feels great to see the Iraqi people get the freedoms they have been denied for so many years," Borsellino said as he came off of a security patrol the evening of the voting. "Any step toward democracy is a step in the right direction."

"We take these freedoms for granted in the U.S.," B Troop's Sgt. Andrew Kisz said. "And it is uplifting to see that a regular practice to us, such as voting, brings the Iraqi people so much enjoyment.

"The performance of the Iraqi security forces was no different than my previous encounters with them," he added. "Today, they were setting up a perimeter around the polling sites. They were disciplined and focused on the mission at hand."

Iraqi security forces took the lead in securing polling sites while coalition forces played a backup role, assisting with outer perimeter security, officials said. "Seeing all the Iraqi forces coming together for a common goal was a good indication of how well they are coming along," Kisz said. "It is very rewarding to see democracy in action in a country that has been denied such freedoms for such a long time."

"A lot of things went right," Army 2nd Lt. David Strickler of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, said. "The Iraqi army did an excellent job, and I was impressed."

"I totally believe in what we are doing here," Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Dennison, of Company C, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, said. "We worked hard in preparation for the referendum. It has been awesome conducting operations with the Iraqi army."

Soldiers from 1st BCT played a supporting role away from the voting areas.

Iraqi citizens want the Iraqi security forces to take over, Dennison said. "We need to let the people and the Iraqi army take on greater responsibility," he said. "The more people see the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police taking on greater responsibility, the more confident they will be in them."

"All the effort over the last several weeks to prepare for the election was way more exciting than working in a factory at home," Army Pvt. Devin Hamilton, of Company C, 1/87th Inf., said. "Hopefully, this election will be a good step in getting Iraq squared away."

The brigade combat team "has done a great job integrating with the Iraqi army," Strickler said. "They have come a long way since we started working with them only six weeks ago."

(Compiled from Task Force Baghdad news releases.)

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