By Scott Flenner
Special to American Forces Press Service
Jan. 28, 2009 - Soldiers with the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team and embedded provincial reconstruction team members traveled yesterday to schools in the Adhamiyah, Istaqlal and Sadr City districts here to observe preparations for Iraqi provincial elections scheduled for Jan. 31. The provincial elections -- the first elections held in Iraq since 2005 -- will mark the first elections in which the Iraqi government and security forces are in the lead in providing security.
With Iraqis in control, the U.S. solders and PRT members traveled to schools –that will serve as polling places to get a sense of how things were going.
"I saw a lot of positives," Army Lt. Col. Troy Otto, commander of the 3rd Special Troops Battalion, said. "I was actually impressed that all the personnel on site have been going through elections training. They were very excited to show us. They were very thrilled about the process."
At every school the soldiers and PRT members visited, they were welcomed with open arms. Headmasters and Iraqi election volunteers were excited to explain in detail how they were going to handle the large crowds of expected voters.
"I think they understood that this is a historic moment in Iraq, and they were taking this as an opportunity to showcase how far Iraq has come," Otto said. "They see it as an opportunity and they are going to take full advantage of it to make Iraq a better place."
The upcoming provincial elections are to be followed by local elections during the summer and national elections near the end of the year.
(Scott Flenner works in the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)