HUSAYBAH, Iraq -- An integral part of Islamic culture is its protectiveness of women; that is why women in this western Iraqi town sitting alongside the Syrian border, like many other cities and towns in Iraq and across the Middle East, cover themselves from head to toe.
In accordance with that tradition, Coalition Forces use female service members to search and secure Islamic women when necessary. Three Marines were selected for service here today in doing just that.
“It’s been a real eye-opener,” said Cpl. Anne M. Hedrington, 21, a Crash-Fire-Rescue Marine stationed out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. “I’m out of my (military occupational specialty), and it really opened my eyes to how sheltered I am.”
The Dec. 15 Iraqi National Elections marked a turning point in Iraq, as an estimated 70 percent of all eligible voters went to the polls.
Armed with an M-16A4 service rifle and a handheld metal detector, Hedrington screens female voters if they set off the airport-style metal detectors set up between two concrete Jersey barriers on the street in front of a soccer field here.
“They’re so tradition-oriented here,” said the St. Charles, Mich., native.
For these Marines, this marks a unique experience to get out and work closer to their brothers in the infantry providing security.
“I’ve wanted to go outside the wire for awhile,” said Lance Cpl. Gabriela Altamira, 21, an aviation supply clerk with Marine Air Logistics Squadron 16, “but in my MOS there aren’t a lot of opportunities to do that.”
The trip away from her home base gave her insight into what the grunts are doing out here.
“It’s a lot different than what I expected,” said the Franklin Park, Ill., native and 2003 graduate of East Leyden High School. “I thought there would be bombings everywhere, but the infantry did a good job of securing everything.”
Altamira stood guard while Lance Cpl. Amber J. Anderson, a 19-year-old native of Escanaba, Mich., and 2004 graduate of Bark River-Harris High School, did a more thorough search of all females once screened by Hedrington.
“This is very interesting to me, just the differences in culture,” said Anderson, a motor transportation mechanic with Marine Wing Support Squadron 372.
Marines have been on the ground in Iraq since 2003, dismantling the insurgency and instilling the Iraqis with a sense of optimism and self-respect. Respecting the Islamic culture is part of the Marines’ duty here, and Hedrington, Altamira and Anderson are here today to do just that.