War on Terrorism

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Soldiers Assess Afghan Polling Sites to Ensure Security

By Army Pfc. Elizabeth K. Raney
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 7, 2009 - Soldiers from the 554th Military Police Company out of Stuttgart, Germany, are assessing polling sites here for next month's Afghan elections. Army Sgt. 1st Class John Moyle, a platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon, 554th Military Police Company who hails from Sunbury, Pa., said the purpose of the missions is to assess local security posture.

The soldiers pass along any security concerns raised by local residents to the provincial reconstruction team for action. The company is serving here under Task Force Mountain Warrior.

Moyle said relationship building and identifying places where humanitarian assistance might be needed are byproducts of the security assessments.

The assessments have kept the soldiers busy. "We had about 30 days to do them all," Moyle said. "There are over 500 [polling sites] in Nangarhar province alone."

Moyle said the people in most villages have been friendly. His platoon has encountered only one village in all of its assessments that was suspected to be unfriendly to coalition forces.

"The thing that has to be determined is why it's not friendly," Moyle said. "Is it by choice? Is it the [villagers] themselves that are anti-coalition forces, or is it because somebody pushed their way into the village and the village people are scared?"

Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Haskell, from Lewiston, Maine, a squad leader in the platoon, said the soldiers seek out village leaders during their assessments.

"We need to know what they have around already for currently existing security measures," he explained, "[such as whether] they have a wall around their compound or if they have any kind of wire, if they have guards or watchmen or anything to keep an eye on the place. We're just trying to determine what they actually have."

The soldiers also look for specific threats, Haskell said. "Usually, everyone seems to think they're really safe where they're at, but I try to find out if they think there's any specific threat against their facility," he said.

Haskell expressed disappointment that a bomb was found in a polling place the day after its assessment. "Nonetheless," he said, "assessing the polling sites for the upcoming election lets the enemy know that we are around, and lets the [villagers] know that we are here for them, to help."

(Army Pfc. Elizabeth K. Raney serves with the 4th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

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