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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit
I Marine Expeditionary Force

Feb 1, 2005

Marine 1st Sgt. Patrick A. Wilkinson, a 39-year-old native of Bristol, R.I., shakes hands with Cpl. Derek L. Stegall, a 22-year-old Pevely, Mo., native, Feb. 1, 2005, at the Marine?s base near Najaf, Iraq, before they depart on convoy for Kuwait, where they will then in turn fly back to the United States. Both Marines are part of Romeo Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable.) For the 2,200 some Marines assigned to An Najaf and Karbala Provinces, Sunday?s elections served as the culminating event to nine months of hard work; a final ?mission completed? before they begin departing Iraq to return to their home base at Camp Pendleton, Calif. After weeks of training Iraqi Security Forces, the Marines of the 11th MEU stood down their patrols for Sunday?s historic elections after the top Marine commander here determined the night before that the city was in good hands with local police and soldiers. According to various reports, nearly 85-percent of Najaf's 430,000 eligible voters visited the polls to cast their ballot. ?People were very excited about voting. I could not sleep the night before. I couldn?t wait to vote,? said Iraqi Police Officer Warrant Officer Jasem Mohammad, 38, displaying his purple ink-stained index finger. ?It?s the first time we have a democracy ? in all of Middle East.?

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