Heightened Iraq security enables high voter turnout
January 31, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq (Army News Service, Jan. 31, 2005) - Despite several attacks on polling sites Jan. 30, Iraqis voted in large numbers and stood up to terrorist threats.
U.S. and Coalition Soldiers stepped up presence patrols around Iraq for the election and were on hand to back up Iraqi security forces. The direct security of the poll sites, however, was left primarily to the Iraqi police and military forces.
In one instance, Iraqis proved their determination to vote when a polling site in western Baghdad received small-arms fire at approximately 8 a.m. The Iraqi Army went to the location, returned fire and detained one insurgent. The Iraqi citizens continued to vote at the site.
At the same time in the Babil region near Baghdad, an improvised explosive device detonated inside a primary school which was a polling site. Damage to the school included a hole in the wall and shrapnel, but there were no casualties. The polling workers moved to a nearby site to continue their work.
Coalition security force operations in the Ninewa Province and the Mosul area of northern Iraq resulted in a safe election day for thousands of Iraqi voters there, reported officials from the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, also known as the Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
SBCT Soldiers detained five suspected insurgents in northern Iraq on election day.
Two of the suspects were detained near a polling site in western Mosul by troops of the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment. The detainees were suspected of planning attacks on voters, officials said.
Other Stryker Brigade Soldiers from 2-14 Cavalry detained three individuals suspected of anti-Iraqi activities south of Mosul. The suspects were taken into custody with no injuries to Multi-National Forces.
Tanks and armored personnel carriers of the Iraqi Army's 1st Brigade, 1st Mechanized Division rumbled through the streets of central Baghdad this weekend and took up defensive positions around election polling sites.
Activated late last year, this brigade is the first armor unit formed in the newly reconstituted Iraqi army.
"The unit has been training since November," said United States Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Flynn, the senior military adviser to the brigade. "It became combat operational in January while serving with 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment."
During that time the unit was used to help in palm grove clearing and traffic control operations in the 2-7 Cav. sector.
Being the only armor unit in the Iraqi Army, the Soldiers have been training specifically for their role in the elections, Flynn said.
"They understand the importance of it," he added. "They know that this is the first real test they're taking for the independence of their country."
As part of their training ,the brigade performed numerous gunnery exercises at Butler range in eastern Iraq
"The gunners were very accurate to about 1,800 meters," Flynn said.
The vehicles used by the brigade are Soviet-built T-55 tanks and armored personnel carriers that came from a unit of the old Iraqi Army that served on the border with Iran.
"The vehicles sat up on the Iranian border for a couple of years," Flynn said. "They were then refurbished by a civilian contractor and given back to the Iraqi army."
(Editor's note: Information compiled from three news releases by units in Iraq.)