As our lead elements turned into sector I started to laugh at the absurd amount of military might rumbling into our AO. Our normal patrols carry a fearsome amount of weaponry, but this was something altogether different. The point element was composed entirely of M1 tanks and the impregnable Buffalo IED clearing vehicle, as they cleared the road ahead of us the resembled nothing more then the armored prow of an icebreaker. Their appointed task was to keep a watchful eye for the insidious IEDs that seem to metastasize along our routes. Their titanic weight and their powerful engines seemed to bleed through the asphalt in trembling crests, a microquake with the convoy at its epicenter. They slowly moved out of sight, and eventually even the sound of their titanic engines was subsumed in the low din of morning.
A few minutes later our election day convoy moved out, a sinewy strip of armor and weaponry. The armored flanks of our element glinted in the morning light, as bright and hard as the scales of a storybook dragon. Our grim parade of vehicles were led out by the low, angry profile of M1 tanks, whose slewing turrets whispered hymns of hydraulic force. Following behind were a knot of M113s and armored HMMWVS, their irregular silhouettes studding the road like dull metallic beads. Sandwiched in between our bellowing war machines was the lanky profile of a HEMMT wrecker, its lines still sleek and graceful despite the thick slabs of armor plating its sides. It was an awesome spectacle, made all the more impressive by our mission. This assemblage had only one purpose – secure an election site in one of the worst areas in Southern Baghdad.
Our final destination was two nondescript schools sitting smack dab in the middle of our sector. The Iraqi election officials had turned a blind eye towards the entire region during the last elections out of fear for their personal safety. To ensure the citizens would have the opportunity to vote in this election we were assigned with the task of living on the polling sites in the run up to elections.
But that of course, was our final destination. Our first hurdle was to link up with the Iraqi Public Order Battalion that would live with us on the election sites. As we pulled into the link up area I glanced at my watch and wondered aloud how long we would have to wait for the POB element to arrive. This was our first time working with this specific POB element, but if they stayed true to experience I figured we would be waiting quite some time. As the linkup time approached I noticed several HMMWVs speeding down the road followed by the POB’s white and blue chevy trucks. As they stopped and linked up with our rear security I looked at my watch in disbelief… they had made the hit time! As I glanced at the POB element sitting there in their standard issue 4 door light pickup trucks I almost laughed, they seemed to be a cross between a college road trip and a collection of Chinese acrobats. It wasn’t the vehicles themselves; the trucks all shared the standard paint scheme of brilliant blue and gleaming white, and they are all crowned with the perennially flashing blue and red police light bar. What made me want to break into laughter was the sheer amount of personnel and equipment they managed to cram into a single vehicle. Each cab was crammed with six to seven POB soldiers huddled together as tightly as a coiled spring. They were so tightly packed that when you looked into the cab you couldn’t identify individual occupants, it just seemed like a collection of limbs and heads were sprouting out of a crumpled pile of uniforms. The beds of the trucks were equally overloaded. In the middle of each POB truck bed you will usually find a 4 foot high weapons pedestal to mount an RPK machine gun. The vehicles were so overloaded with vehicles and gear, all piled in one tottering mound, that the entire pedestal was buried. As if that yawning height weren't enough several intrepid POB soldiers were clambering on the piles like strange mountaineers. The majority of their bodies seemed to be hanging off the vehicle, but they managed to balance there in defiance of all known laws of gravity.
Despite their cluttered vehicles they looked excited and ready to move to the election center, and once we finished our link up we moved into town to secure the election site.