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On Campaign Trail, a Single Shot

"Fair enough," said Born.

About 10 minutes later, Born stopped to talk with Hassan Jaffar Ali, a 20-year-old art student. He said he planned to vote and thanked Born, telling him: "If the Americans are here, there is safety. If they go, there is not."

'If He Votes, We Leave'

Soldiers then surrounded a two-story house. The battalion had received reports that it was being used as a meeting place for insurgents.


Soldiers from C Company's 1st Platoon work to get out the vote on the west side of Mosul's al-Whada neighborhood. (Steve Fainaru -- The Washington Post)

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A paunchy, middle-aged man invited the soldiers to search the house. As they did, the 1st Platoon leader, 2nd Lt. Jason Shick of Grand Rapids, Mich., questioned the man on the second floor.

"Ask him does he know any anti-American forces or anti-coalition forces at all in this area," Shick told the interpreter. "Tell him we're searching all the homes in the area, so he's not going to get singled out."

"We don't have anything to tell you," the man's wife said plaintively in halting English.

The man shook his head no.

Shick checked the man's name against a list of suspects. Satisfied he was not a terrorist, Shick then tried to lock up his vote.

"Is he going to vote in the upcoming elections?" he asked the interpreter.

"Yes, they are going to go vote," the interpreter said after consulting with the couple.

"Good. Tell him thank you very much," said Shick, heading back down the stairs. "And make sure he votes. If he votes, we leave. Americans go home."

The two platoons then gathered for the final phase of the mission.

The 1st Platoon was to escort two members of a tactical human intelligence team, or THT, to the medical clinic. The 2nd Platoon was to hand off an encryption device to U.S. advisers working with Iraqi troops near a hospital.

At the last minute, however, the orders changed. Hoe was ordered to escort the THT to the clinic.

"Nobody had a problem with it. It was just easier for us to transport the THT guys, so we swapped missions," Siglock recalled. In interviews, he and 15 other soldiers described the events that followed.

Hoe decided to pull up several hundred yards short of the clinic and take only one squad of nine soldiers to avoid frightening the clinic staff. When the men dismounted from the rear of the Stryker, however, the platoon was still a city block away, farther than Hoe had intended.

"Everyone remount," Hoe started to say, according to Thornton, who was still in the vehicle. Then he decided against it. "Nah, [expletive] it, we'll walk."


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