1st Lt. Todd C. Gibson
2nd HBCT, 3rd ID Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ, Iraq - The armored vehicles entered the outskirts of the city, and were greeted with miles upon miles of political flyers, posters, and billboards. Each one adorned with a different face, faces that could very well represent the citizens of Mosul once the election results were tallied.
The days prior to the Iraqi democratic vote were tense, and the unit’s command and staff followed every step leading up to the final election within the city of Mosul. Each mission was painstakingly planned and scrutinized during the operations and intelligence briefings. “This is it,” said Maj. Patrick Wentz, the battalion operations
officer. “This is why we are here.”
In preparation, the battalion coordinated various missions to ensure a smooth voting process. The main efforts were preventative measures; route clearance patrols cleared the roads of any potential improvised explosive devices,
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles provided constant surveillance, and intelligence collection teams worked day and night to garner critical information on the insurgents’ intentions.
The engineers of Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, launched a platoon of route clearance personnel the night prior to the elections. They were warned in their mission brief about the increased dangers; if insurgents wanted to make a statement, this could have very well been the night.
As the route clearance patrol headed out, the driver of patrol’s RG-33 medical evacuation vehicle, Pfc. Robby Morris spoke of his upcoming rest and recuperation leave, which was fast approaching. He was excited about spending two weeks in Tennessee with his wife, and thoughts of Family resonated with the rest of the crew.
Private First Class Robert De La Pena stared out the window intently, medical shears tucked snuggly in his body armor. “I’ll need you to carry these, sir,” he said politely as he had loaded down his unexpected, camera-toting visitor with extra bandages and tourniquets, just as an added precaution.
The streets were empty, the polling sites sat quiet and undisturbed, but the next morning they were sure to be filled with droves of determined Iraqi voters. The political flyers continued to pass as the route clearance patrol eventually made its way back to Forward Operating Base Marez.
Watching over these patrols and the rest of the city, ‘Shadow’ Unmanned Aerial Vehicles of Alpha Company, 2-3 Brigade Troops Battalion, gave command elements a bird’s eye view for U.S. and Iraqi forces in search of suspicious activity. Their platoon leader, Chief Warrant Officer Luis Iglesias, supervised the UAV operations continuously throughout the election period, helping to deny insurgents the ability to emplace explosives designed
to kill innocent voters.
While most of the work conducted by the human and signal intelligence teams of Company A is classified material, there is no doubt that their assessments aided U.S. and Iraqi commanders in averting potential threats to security.
Many expected the worst, and braced for it. But the voting passed with only a few reported incidents, and there was a tangible sense of relief within the battalion headquarters. As Maj. Wentz stated, “this is why we are here,” and the success of the elections has moved U.S. Forces one more step toward going home.