HADITHA DAM, Iraq -- Three days before the national Iraqi elections, Iraqi Army soldiers operating in Haditha, Barwana, and Haqlaniyah got the chance to cast their vote here Dec. 12.
Team 5, Detachment 3, 6th Civil Affairs Group helped more than 500 Iraqi soldiers participate in the democratic process to elect a permanent government for the Iraqi people.
The three companies were bused in from their bases within the cities to an Iraqi camp near the dam. They cast their vote three days before the national elections because they will be providing security for the voting sites in the three cities they currently operate within.
“It is good to see them voting early,” said Maj. Dana G. Hyatt, a Colchester, Conn., native and Team 5 commander. “They are the ones serving their country and deserve it.”
To conduct the election, 11 Iraqi volunteers from Baghdad traveled to the dam to work the voting site here and those in the city of Haditha. According the Hyatt, they operated every aspect of the voting process and the Marines and interpreter with civil affairs helped the volunteers with anything they needed.
“We are really hands off, but we help them facilitate the voting process any way we can,” added the 43-year-old East Haddam Elementary School teacher.
The Iraqi soldiers lined up outside a wooden shack as the poll workers set up the election process. Once all set up, the soldiers were brought in one at a time to vote.
The first part of the process was showing identification and signing a logbook. They then received the ballot and had to choose one of the 337 parliament groups on the four sheets of paper given to them.
After they had chosen the group they wished to govern the country for four years, they dipped their index finger in ink. As the ink dripped from their finger, they moved to the next station where they dropped there ballot into a box and exited the polling site.
“Helping with this historic event is why we are here,” commented Hyatt, a 1980 Westbrook High School graduate. “Knowing we helped make a difference is something we will have with us forever.”
This is not the only election Hyatt and his team have participated in since arriving here in September. On Oct. 15, they helped make sure the election for the Iraqi constitution went off without a hitch.
“The last election we didn’t have a very good turnout,” said Hyatt, a reservist who has spent 25 years in the Marines. “I think it was pretty foreign for them to be voting on a piece of paper. I think this time we will see a lot more people out voting.”
In a couple days, the poll workers and Hyatt’s team will travel to the city of Haditha. They will set up a voting site in the middle of the city on Dec. 15 to take in hundreds of voters.
“This is really the start of democracy for them,” Hyatt said. “They get to voice their opinions and be heard.”