Video: In Ramadi it's bullets, ballots

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/28/2005 7:34:19 PM ET 2005-01-29T00:34:19

Ramadi's main polling station is now a fortress. Room by room, U.S. Marines secured the building. They broke down doors and checked for bombs. Within hours, blast walls and barbed wire protected the voting site. Then the ballot boxes and polling kits were unloaded.

It's an unusual role for Golf Company, 2nd Batallion, 5th Marine Regiment out of Camp Pendleton, Calif. They are trying to get out the vote among Ramadi's 200,000 eligible Sunni voters with posters and leaflets and door-to-door canvassing.

One Iraqi said he will vote if there's “good weather” on Sunday.

“What they mean by 'good weather' is if there's no shooting, no explosions, no nothing,” says Sgt. Sam Hmidan with the 1st Marine Division. And that means lock-down security around the clock.

The Marines have swept across 10 city blocks that surround the polling site, hoping to guarantee “good weather.” Marines are going house to house in a heavy insurgent area, looking for weapons caches, trying to protect people who may vote on Sunday, but also trying to protect themselves.

Friday’s catch included a handful of mostly primitive weapons. But company commander, Capt. Jeff Kenney, is worried about insurgent sleeper agents.

“The guys are waiting for the Election Day to do something big,” he says.

Friday, insurgent mortars exploded near the polling site. If insurgents strike on Sunday, Iraqi commandos are trained to do most of the fighting, with U.S. forces nearby to offer help.

“To provide a secure environment and have the people come to the polling site is success,” says Capt. Kenney.

But the Marines know just one shell or suicide bomber could scare voters away, giving insurgents an Election Day victory with hardly a fight.

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