In the wake of a momentous U.S. election, the Army’s 425th Civil Affairs Battalion – the reserve unit based in the center on the corner of State and Las Positas – readies itself for the work that must be done for the upcoming Iraqi elections. Major Allan Dollison, the unit’s Public Affairs Officer, said that as far as he could tell, soldiers stationed in Iraq were very interested in election proceedings back home. “You probably heard that the military really went to great lengths to assist soldiers in voting,” he said in an email. “I would absolutely agree with that. In fact I spoke to several active duty soldiers who were here in 2004, and they said it was easier to vote this time than last time.” Dollison wished to debunk the myth that soldiers vote for a candidate whom they think will send them home. “I think the soldiers were interested in the election, as was America, because they were patriotic, and soldiers felt it was important for their voices to be heard.”

Having replaced the outgoing 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion on November 3, Dollison – who is a deputy district attorney in Humboldt County when he isn’t wearing Army green – said that the 425th’s main focus will be preparations for the Iraqi elections, which are scheduled for January 31. “We will mostly work with civilian professionals as they assist in the conduct of the elections,” he said. “The key is that elections are an Iraqi operation. They are quite adept at conducting them at this point, even in their young status as a democracy.”

Dollison continued that morale is high, and a couple of emails received from soldiers in the unit seemed to confirm that sentiment. “When soldiers hit the ground running they are always eager to get busy and accomplish their mission,” he wrote. “That was the dynamic that I felt on my last tour in Afghanistan. I see it the same here.” What appears to be a markedly more stable situation in Iraq has led to more creature comforts for the soldiers there as well. On the larger bases, fast food restaurants and entertainment opportunities abound. Dollison said that where he is, fast food restaurants don’t get much business because of the high quality of the food in the Army’s dining facilities there. “The chow is so good here, you could not imagine,” he said. “Every Friday we have steak and crab. If Armies fight on their stomachs, we are a ‘well taken care of stomach.'”


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