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European lawns might lack campaign posters, but American troops stationed in Europe are well aware of the intensifying U.S. election battle as the primaries kicked off Tuesday in New Hampshire.

Troops appear to want the same thing U.S. civilians seem to be looking for: change.

“I’ve been following the races pretty closely,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Antonio St. Hilaire, stationed in Naples, Italy. “We definitely need a change, and this group gives us a wide range of diversity — on both sides.”

Sgt. Don Baker, a Stuttgart, Germany-based soldier who described himself as Independent, said he’d probably vote for a Democrat, “Just for a change of pace and to see what happens.”

When it came to describing what they thought about the field of candidates, most troops were more ambiguous in their responses.

“I don’t think that there are any candidates that would hurt the country, but certain ones would place the interests of the military higher than others,” said Sgt. Keith Anderson, who is stationed in Bamberg, Germany. He didn’t say whom that might be.

Sgt. Brian Waterman, a 23-year-old mechanic stationed in Darmstadt, Germany, wasn’t too concerned about the outcome of the election, and said he probably wouldn’t vote. “They all have strong backgrounds,” he said. “They have the best intentions.”

What really matters to him is what they make of those intentions if elected, he said.

Asked what she thought, Heather DiRocco, an Army civilian, said, “Not much, to tell you the truth.”

DiRocco, a Queens, N.Y., native who moved to Germany in July 2001, said she was happy with Republican Rudy Giuliani’s record as New York mayor. “If he could do that for the rest of the country, I think that would be wonderful,” she said.

She was wary, though, of some of the popular candidates from both major parties. Barack Obama is too inexperienced, and Hillary Clinton would be no different as president than her husband was, she said.

GOP candidate Mike Huckabee drew DiRocco’s harshest criticism. “The last thing we need is another evangelical Christian,” she said. “I don’t think he will help us diplomatically.”

Army Maj. Ray Butler said he usually votes Republican, but wasn’t impressed with those running for the party’s nomination. He called the Democrats an interesting group of candidates.

“You have the establishment (Clinton) as well as the outsider (Obama),” Butler said. “To see the establishment and outsider running neck and neck, I’m kind of curious to see what will happen with the primary today in New Hampshire.”

Reporters Charlie Coon, Matt Millham, Lisa Novak and Mark St.Clair contributed to this report.

How do airmen feel about election?Stars and Stripes, Stars and Stripes was unable to ask airmen their thoughts about the U.S. primary elections because Air Force public affairs officers were seeking legal guidance on the issue.

The newspaper contacted the 31st Fighter Wing public affairs office in Aviano Air Base, Italy, on Tuesday morning about doing man-on-the-street interviews to ask the following questions:

How closely are you following the primaries?What do you think of the field of candidates?A “Roll Call” message to airmen dated Oct. 10, 2007, says, “Airmen can vote and express personal opinions on political candidates and issues.” However, U.S. Air Forces in Europe public affairs officers questioned whether guidelines prohibited airmen from answering specific questions.

After sending the issue to the legal office for review, the Air Force told Stripes after deadline that it was OK for airmen to answer such questions as long as it’s clear that they are giving their personal opinions and not speaking as an Air Force representative, a public affairs official said.


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