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3rd MAW provides security/transport during elections

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 20052615738
Story by Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri

AL ASAD, Iraq (Feb. 06, 2005) -- The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing played a vital, yet largely unseen role in support of the recent Iraqi elections.

Transportation of elections materials and workers throughout the Al Anbar province was largely the responsibility of the 3rd MAW team.

“We were tasked with moving Iraqi elections workers and ballots to their polling stations,” said Maj. Rod A. Funk, operations officer, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

VMGR-452 took extra precautions to guarantee a safe mission in the face of insurgents who threatened to sabotage the elections.

“We planned for a worse case scenario,” said Funk, a 40-year-old native of Lancaster, Pa. “We even trained ‘provisional air marshal teams’ to be security for the election workers.”

Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 with their AH-1W Super Cobras also helped ensure safe elections by provided aerial security in the northwestern areas of the province.

“We were responsible for the security of numerous towns surrounding Korean Village,” said Capt. Jeff J. Meisenger, pilot, HMLA-367. “We try to make the ground guys’ job as easy as possible.”

Marines and Iraqi National Guardsmen already had a lot to worry about on the ground, so the added security in the air eases some of the stress.

“We can cover a lot of ground really fast and the Cobra’s can be pretty intimidating,” said Meisenger, a 36-year-old native of Sugar Grove, Ill. “It’s a show of force to deter the insurgents from doing anything the day of elections.”

The importance of the day required a level of commitment from the Marines not called for on a daily basis.

“Our Marines have worked lot of extra hours,” said Gunnery Sgt. James R. Keller, a 24-year-old native of Bogalusa, La., and staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, HML-367. “They constantly have to be on alert for anything that might happen.”

Even with the long hours and apparent danger threatened by insurgents in their intimidation campaign to deter voters, for many, the payoff of a successful election made it well worth the effort.

“The elections workers were so happy to be with the Marines when we flew them to their elections sites,” said Lt. Col. Bradley S. James, commanding officer, VMGR-452. “It was satisfying to see the happiness on their faces.”

James, a reserve Marine who also flies for United Airlines said he is proud to have played a part in this historic event.

“After I got back, I saw some of the Iraqi’s that voted and they were laughing and smiling,” said the 45-year-old native of Alpharetta, Ga. “That’s when it hit me of how important all of this really is, and it’s just the beginning.”

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