AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Standing post on a cold Iraqi winter night is something that almost every Marine here has done at least once. However, standing guard during a historic first-time election near a polling site is something unique that only a few Marines can say they’ve done. Lance Cpl. Cody Pollak, a rifleman with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, is one of those Marines.
For many, the elections represented the third major hurtle in creating and maintaining a free and stable Iraq. For Pollak, it represented the defining moment of his deployment.
“It feels pretty good to be here for this,” said the 20-year-old from Seward, Neb. “Sure it would have been cool to be a part of the march to Baghdad, but this is still one of the most important parts of the war. These elections were crucial, and we are part of history. Actually, I thought it would be more hectic during the voting, but it really wasn’t that bad.”
The actual election went very smoothly with only one violent act during the day and large groups of people going to polling stations to take part in the selection of their representatives. According to Pollak, this had a lot to do with the increasing ability of both the Iraqi Army and Iraqi election committee.
“With Iraqis having run the election, I think it went very well,” he said. “Last time, the Marines did very little, but with them (Iraqis) doing it all, it might of influenced the people to vote more and feel more confident in their government. Our job during the election was to basically be prepared to handle an emergency, and fortunately, we didn’t have to.”
In addition to ensuring the freedom to vote and participate in the Iraqi elections, Marines such as Pollak spend much of their time working with and training the novice Iraqi Army so they are prepared and able to take over responsibility for their own country.
“We’ve done some patrols with the IA, mostly we provide security for them while they conduct searches and move from house to house,” he said. “We are there to make sure they are doing everything right and most of the time they are. They’re catching on and they’re learning a lot. They have almost mastered the basics of patrolling and searching and aren’t too far away from not needing our help. I really like working with them though. It gives me a chance to meet new people and experience a new culture.”
Although not always as glamorous as the battles for Baghdad and Fallujah, Marines with the battalion who served during the elections can look back with pride at what they accomplished.
“It’s long and hard at times, but when you look left and right and everyone else is going through the same thing it makes it easier,” he said. “Being here during the elections and making a difference – all in all it isn’t too bad.”