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Master Sgt. Derek Hayes of Headquarters Company, 1st Marines Logistics Group, beleives the U.S. must stay in Iraq for now. “If you mess up someone’s house, you’ve got to clean it up,” Hayes said.

Master Sgt. Derek Hayes of Headquarters Company, 1st Marines Logistics Group, beleives the U.S. must stay in Iraq for now. “If you mess up someone’s house, you’ve got to clean it up,” Hayes said. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

Master Sgt. Derek Hayes of Headquarters Company, 1st Marines Logistics Group, beleives the U.S. must stay in Iraq for now. “If you mess up someone’s house, you’ve got to clean it up,” Hayes said.

Master Sgt. Derek Hayes of Headquarters Company, 1st Marines Logistics Group, beleives the U.S. must stay in Iraq for now. “If you mess up someone’s house, you’ve got to clean it up,” Hayes said. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

In Kandahar, Afghanistan, Spc. Teddy Aarstad, of the 159th Medical Detachment (AA), said he doesn’t believe having Democrats will result in any immediate changes in U.S. policy in the Mideast.

In Kandahar, Afghanistan, Spc. Teddy Aarstad, of the 159th Medical Detachment (AA), said he doesn’t believe having Democrats will result in any immediate changes in U.S. policy in the Mideast. (Courtesy of Teddy Aarstad)

At Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Chief Petty Officer Marion L. Boyanton said the election results prove “the majority of Americans think of themselves as Americans first, and Democrats or Republicans second.”

At Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Chief Petty Officer Marion L. Boyanton said the election results prove “the majority of Americans think of themselves as Americans first, and Democrats or Republicans second.” (Courtesy of Marion L. Boyanton)

Troops interviewed in the Middle East on Wednesday said the Democrats would find no easy answers to the war.

Almost all shared their thoughts on the election before the Wednesday announcement of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation.

Asked how Rumsfeld’s resignation would affect troops in Iraq, a spokesman for Multi-National Forces-Iraq responded with a one-sentence e-mail: “The troops of MNF-I will continue to perform their mission with the same courage, dedication, and professionalism as they do every day,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver.

Some troops, before the announcement of Rumsfeld’s resignation, were cautiously optimistic that the situation might improve, although they doubted there would be immediate changes.

In Balad, Iraq, Spc. Pamela Michaud from the 558th Signal Company said a bit of new direction could be good for the troops.

“There’s nothing wrong with having a change,” Michaud said. “We might as well try to get something out of it.”

Staff Sgt. Michael Grabowski with the 3rd Medical Command in Balad said Democrats needed to get past the practice of simply criticizing President Bush and Rumsfeld and their reasons for going to war, and produce a substantive plan to move forward.

“What is your plan?” he asked. “To cut and run will just destabilize the Middle East.”

Now that the Democrats have regained some power after spending months attacking the administration, Grabowski said, they’ll have to face the realities of holding the responsibility.

“I think that they will basically discover … there’s no easy answers, there’s no easy one-shot cure,” he said.

Staff Sgt. Heather Adams, 26, a reservist with 3rd Battalion, 135th Aviation Brigade in Balad, worried that a divided or Democratically controlled Congress would make it harder for the military to get the manpower and equipment it needs in Iraq.

“I think there will probably be a stalemate on any resources we need,” Adams said.

Even at this stage of the war, Adams said, she knew of some troops that didn’t have the newest, safest type of helmet.

Adams cited a statement by Bush that he would approve any number of troops that commanders in the field called for, and wondered whether that kind of maneuver would be possible with a Democratic-controlled House.

“I have a feeling they’ll end up pulling troops out of here,” she said.

Pfc. NaToshya Fisher, 21, a Republican from Mineral Wells, Texas, with the 368th Cargo Transfer Company in Balad, has a different opinion.

“We’re going to be here for a while no matter who’s in [Congress],” she said.

At Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, west of Fallujah, election results didn’t reach the troops until after lunch.

Master Sgt. Derek Hayes of Headquarters Company, 1st Marines Logistics Group, said the troops were just pawns to both Democrats and Republicans. He favored the U.S. staying in Iraq for now.

“If you mess up someone’s house, you’ve got to clean it up,” Hayes said. “I echo the president — we’ve got to stay until the job is done, whatever that means, because it means different things to different people.”

“Personally, I’m upset (with the results), but what are you going to do?” said Lance Cpl. Jackie Ravelo of the group’s operations office. “I don’t think it’ll affect us getting out of here any sooner.”

Others also wondered whether the Democrats’ campaign pitches would have any effect on the ground in Iraq.

“From all of them I’ve heard, ‘time line, time line, time line,’ ” said Sgt. 1st Class John Clipp of 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, who is finishing a one-year tour at Camp Corregidor in Ramadi and was waiting for a flight back to Fort Campbell, Ky.

“I think they (Democrats) will push for a withdrawal or some kind of plan,” he said. “I would like to see a time line. On the other hand, we have a mission to do.”

In Kandahar, Afghanistan, Spc. Teddy Aarstad, 29, of the 159th Medical Detachment (AA), out of Wiesbaden, Germany, had doubts there would be about-face.

“I think a lot of people expect that [with] the Democrats, once they gain control of the House and the Senate … there’s going to be almost a complete reversal in policy and I don’t necessarily think that’s going to happen, but I think, at this point, it remains to be seen,” said Aarstad, from Duvall, Wash.

Maj. Jason Crowe, at Camp Eggers, Afghanistan, with the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, is redeploying to the States in three days.

He thought the results indicated a move toward “a more moderate position between left and right.”

“Hopefully, it will cause the two primary political parties to cooperate…,” said Crowe, 37, from Winchester, Ky.

Dwaine Nolte, a civilian at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, said he thought most people voted based on backyard issues, not real issues affecting their future.

With the Democrats making gains, he said, “It will be difficult to continue fighting terrorism across the global theater, and the president’s decisions will be more of a struggle.”

In Kuwait, Chief Petty Officer Marion L. Boyanton, with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 in Camp Arifjan, was “just thrilled” with the election results.

“I think that America voted their conscience,” he said.

“I think we might start directing more pressure [for the Iraqis to take] responsibility for their own country. I think this proves the majority of Americans think of themselves as Americans first, and Democrats or Republicans second,” he said.

Pary Smith contributed to this report.


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