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Homeland Security Advisory

January 29, 2005

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Observing Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 29, 2005 -- Editor's Note: AFPS
reporter Jim
Garamone has traveled in Iraq since early January, covering
the many news
aspects about multinational and Iraqi security forces'
efforts in preparation
for upcoming Jan. 30 elections. During his travels, he's
come upon interesting
aspects of life in Iraq.

Expatriot Vote has Effect in Iraq

While the big day here is Jan. 30, Iraqi elections overseas
have already begun.
The coverage of these overseas elections is having an
effect on the homeland.

Officials said the extensive Arab media coverage of the
expatriate voting
process is encouraging Iraqis to vote here. "They see the
real happiness that
Iraqis in the other countries exhibit at being able to
vote," said an Iraqi
official. "It is contagious."

No official will forecast what the voter turnout might be.
"In some areas of
the country it will be very high," the official said. "In
others, it depends on
what the security situation is as the people decide to go

Iraqi Suicide Bombers

Terrorists are turning to car bombs -- "vehicle-borne
improvised explosive
devices" in military-speak. They pack the car or truck with
artillery shells or
plastic explosive and attach a triggering device.

Most VBIEDs are driven to a point and the drivers leave.
Someone triggers the
explosions remotely via a timer.

But in 30 percent of cases, said Army Gen. George Casey,
the drivers drive the
vehicles into targets. In the past, Iraqi officials said
drivers of these
vehicles must be foreigners because Iraqis don't commit
suicide. "I'm not sure
that's the case," the commander of multinational forces in
Iraq said during an
interview. "I think there are Iraqi Islamic extremists who
are capable of
getting in a car and blowing themselves up."

Dirt Equals Work

Army Spc. Chris Ott, a tank mechanic with the Louisiana
National Guard's 199th
Forward Support Battalion, may have the filthiest set of
coveralls in Iraq.

Ott, who goes by the nickname "Pig Pen," is one of the
mechanics responsible
for ensuring the 256th Brigade Combat Team's Abrams tanks
work well for the
soldiers who take them "outside the wire."

He takes the state of his coveralls in stride. "If you
ain't dirty, you ain't
working," the specialist said. "You do what you have to to
make sure the
equipment works."

Conditions in the motor pool are Spartan to say the least.
Ott's coveralls are
impregnated with the Iraqi dirt and mud that he works in
and are saturated with
all the fluids that are used in M1A1s.

It's been noticed that no one lights a match around Ott
when he's wearing the
coveralls. If they caught on fire they would probably burn
for three days.

Mardi Gras Parade for Baghdad?

Americans bring their traditions and celebrations with them
wherever they go,
and Baghdad is no different.

Louisianans with the 256th Brigade Combat Team are
preparing for Mardi Gras on
Feb. 8. Mardi Gras decorations are starting to appear on
doors and desks
throughout the brigade, and some units have already
received their supplies of
beads. "I'd like to pass most of them out to Iraqi kids,"
said Army Capt. Chris
Armstrong, commander of Headquarters Company, 1088th
Engineer Battalion.
"Wouldn't that be great?"

The main focus for the brigade has been on providing
security for the
elections, Armstrong said. "But after the elections, we can
celebrate our
Louisiana heritage here," he said.

And who knows? Perhaps for the day the main road in Camp
Victory will be
renamed Bourbon Street.


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