Image: Third Platoon Delta Company
Rafiq Maqbool  /  AP
U.S. soldiers of the Third Platoon Delta Company 1-26 watch television news reports on the presidential elections at a military base in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province on Tuesday.
updated 11/5/2008 5:11:42 AM ET 2008-11-05T10:11:42

U.S. soldiers on the front lines tuned in Tuesday to CNN and the Internet to track the presidential election that will decide the future of their mission. But for many, the day was spent like so many others on patrols, repairing equipment and other mundane tasks of war.

Troops in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan mailed in absentee ballots long ago — if they voted. So by the time election day arrived back home, there was nothing for them to do but await the results.

"We can't stop doing what we have to do. We got to keep running," said Maj. Gary Dangerfield of Chicago, spokesman for the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment based in the northern city of Mosul.

It was hard to tell, however, whether soldiers were pleased with the outcome of the race. Public affairs officers in Iraq turned down requests by The Associated Press and other news organizations to ask soldiers whether they supported Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain.

One soldier, Sgt. James Fowler, 27, of Fresno, California, volunteered that he voted for Obama but "I am outnumbered 10-to-one, especially among officers" and senior noncommissioned officers who support McCain.

"Everyone is looking forward to McCain," said Fowler, from the 94th Engineer Battalion. "But I believe it's time for change and Obama has promised that. At least he has given us a timeline" for withdrawing from Iraq.

Obama has called for bringing all combat soldiers home from Iraq within 16 months. McCain, a veteran and former Vietnam War prisoner, says the current U.S. strategy in Iraq is working and has promised to pursue the war until victory.

'Fresh start would be good'
In the remote Afghan province of Kunar, meanwhile, Spc. Joshua Frank said it was "about time" the U.S. had a new president although he would not state his preference.

"We need, definitely need some change," Frank said. "So a fresh guy, fresh start would be good."

Both Obama and McCain support sending more troops to Afghanistan, where insurgent violence is on the rise even as it is declining in Iraq.

While Americans were voting back home, Lightning Troop, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry went to Badoush, a town on the northern outskirts of Mosul, to observe and help Iraqis recruit 200 new members of the National Police.

"Some soldiers are concerned about the election, but we really don't talk politics very much," said platoon leader 1st Lt. Conrad Brown, a West Point graduate from Bangor, Maine, speaking at the site where Iraqi recruits were stripped, searched, given health checks and tested for literacy.

Troop commander Capt. Hunter Bowers of Hendersonville, Tennessee, said he did not get to vote because his absentee ballot was sent to the wrong address.

"Things won't change here between now and the time we go home. We'll be getting back about the time the new president is inaugurated," Bowers said.

Another officer, Capt. Jared Just, said he believed that no matter who wins, "it won't really change the course of things in Iraq that much."

Minutes before the unit's Humvees reached a checkpoint on a highway en route back to base, a suicide bomber rammed his car into an Iraqi army truck. Flames still flared from the wrecked truck and trails of blood marked its left front door. Iraqi police said four policemen were wounded in the blast, but the bomber was the only fatality.

Sgt. Anthony Vess, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, said he thought a lot of younger soldiers supported Obama's Iraq policy.

"This war has taken up a chunk of my life," said Vess, 27, also with the 94th Engineers. "I consider myself a peacekeeper, not a war fighter."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Watching closely from Baghdad


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