HADITHA, Iraq -- Iraqi Army soldiers and U.S. Marines with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, participated in a part of history while providing security for the Iraqi National Elections here Dec. 15.
Corporal Scott K. Jepsen, of Bridgewater, N.J., helped ensure the elections went off smoothly by being a liaison for 46 election workers and providing security for the polling site here.
“We had a much bigger turnout this time,” said Jepsen, a noncommissioned officer for Team 5, Detachment 3, 6th Civil Affairs Group. “Last time we had a few hundred, this time we had over 15,000.”
The 25-year-old Jepsen and other civil affairs Marines spent their last few days watching over Iraqi volunteer poll workers and facilitating the elections. Not only did Jepsen act as a liaison between the Marines here, but he also helped provide security with Iraqi soldiers.
“We deal with the Iraqi people in this area everyday,” said the 1999 graduate of Bridgewater-Raritan High School. “So it worked out that we were the best men for the job of taking care of the election workers.”
Jepsen and the civil affairs team have worked in the Haditha area since October.
“I think being here during this time is just awesome,” said Jepsen, an officer with the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department when not activated in the Marines. “We are part of something positive in building the future of Iraq; not very many people can say that.”
Jepsen continued to say that there are many people in the city whose lives were threatened and were told not to vote.
“Seeing all these people actually come to vote really tells everyone they want to move forward,” he commented
As the thousands of voters waited to enter the polling site, Jepsen and other Marines provided outer security while the Iraqi Army ran security inside and at each of the entry control points. Thanks to the professionalism of the Iraqi Army and Marines, the polling site was free of suicide bombers and terrorists who wanted to disrupt the elections.
Even though almost all traffic was closed down, buses helped bring people from their homes to the polling site. This form of public transportation is said to be a major reason why so many people made it to the elections here.
Once the day was done, Jepsen and the civil affairs team escorted the ballots out of the city and to the Haditha Dam. The Iraqi poll workers then boarded an aircraft on their way back to Baghdad.
According to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, the official numbers for the national election may be available by Dec. 25, a day that will let the Iraqi people feel what it is like to have elected a government chosen by the people, for the people.
“You can really tell people care and are happy to be able to vote for who they want to govern this country,” commented Jepsen as Iraqi voters exited the site with smiles on their faces. “The sheer numbers here says it all.”