Sat, Jul 19, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Polish army gets ready to take over command of area


US Lieutenant Colonel Richard Murphy turned to his audience of Polish army officers in a small briefing room and talked about what they would soon be facing when they take over command in south-central Iraq.

The Polish Armed Forces are to lead a larger group of international troops that will oversee the central southern command of the country. They expect to take over from the US forces by September.

Many hope the broader range of international forces will diminish Iraqi fears that the US soldiers were staying for a long-term occupation. The larger group also will ease the US burden.

The Polish soldiers have been watching as coalition troops have come under seemingly increasing attacks for insurgents, studying the security situation and trying to learn both how to protect themselves and take control of the region.

Murphy went over just exactly what the job will entail.

"If some guy comes up to you while you're out on patrol and says his generator's just blown, what are you going to do?" asks Murphy, of the 358 Civil Affairs Brigade that supports the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

"You will have to decide what the ramifications will be, how many people will be affected from this power cut, what you can do to help," he said pacing the room.

The Polish officers listened, took notes, asked questions. Murphy outlined solutions. The GIs seemed glad for the Polish help.

"We're anxious to assist them so we can go home," said Colonel Michael Whitehead. "We're ready and willing to do whatever we can. I've got a wife and three children in Tallahassee, Florida, I can't wait to see."

The Multinational Division for the Central South, made up of at least 18 countries, will cover five provinces -- Karbala, Wasit, Babil, Qadisiyah and Najaf, and was expected to number 9,000, said Whitehead, also of the 358 Civil Affairs Brigade.

"Our primary task here is to improve the security and to provide stabilization in Iraq, to assist the Iraqi people in recovering their country and of course, to assist the coalition in reviving infrastructure," said Major General Andrezj Tyszkiewicz, commander of the Polish Armed Forces in Iraq.

He said he expected his troops to remain for at least a year.

Some of the countries involved in the Multinational Division include Spain, Slovakia, Ukraine, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Bulgaria, El Salvador, Honduras, the Philippines, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, Tyszkiewicz said.

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