Making Sense Of The Election From Baghdad While his family was at home watching the U.S. election results, Capt. Nate Rawlings was watching CNN on a military base in Iraq. He discusses his experience and his soldiers' reactions to Barack Obama's victory.
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Making Sense Of The Election From Baghdad

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Making Sense Of The Election From Baghdad

Making Sense Of The Election From Baghdad

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This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.


And I'm Madeleine Brand. Coming up on the program, a talk with an author who tries to persuade you to live happily on less.

CHADWICK: First, Army Captain Nate Rawlings is back with us from his post in southern Baghdad. He's with the First Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, and he's a regular contributor to Day to Day. Captain Rawlings, welcome back.

Captain NATE RAWLINGS (Army Captain, First Brigade Combat Team; 4th Infantry Division): Thank you very much for having me.

CHADWICK: So, we wanted to check in with you to find out what you're hearing there from your soldiers and from others about this election.

Captain RAWLINGS: Well, a lot of our soldiers paid pretty close attention, and throughout the day, we had all the televisions that we had hooked up to satellite were hooked up to CNN or the news broadcasts to try and see as the polls were coming back in. And with the time difference, the - a lot of the results started coming in just as everyone went to bed, but by the time woke up, at about seven o'clock the next morning, it was pretty much all over.

CHADWICK: And what were people saying about that?

Captain RAWLINGS: Ah, there was a pretty good mixed reaction. The military communities tend to be a little more on the conservative side usually, but just from some informal speaking with a lot of my soldiers, I found that an awful lot of them did, in fact, vote for Barack Obama. And they're really looking forward to having him as their commanding in chief. And a lot of the professional soldiers, though, just starting getting ready to have a new commander in chief come in and see what changes he'll make.

Obviously, I think they're hoping that the drawdown here will certainly affect them, but the ones who are staying in the Army know that they'll probably have to go to Afghanistan pretty soon. So, that's weighing on their mind as well.

CHADWICK: The Iraq war, of course, was a very important element in Senator Obama's campaign, especially early on, when he was challenging Senator Clinton for the party nomination. He said, I'm going to set this date to get out of there. Now, he's won the office. We'll have to see exactly what date he's going to settle on. But what are people there thinking about this?

Captain RAWLINGS: Well, I actually had a soldier shortly after President-elect Obama won, and they called the election for him. I had a soldier ask me if he thought that this would mean we would be home by Christmas, and I had to tell that soldier that, unfortunately, Mr. Obama doesn't even get sworn in until January 20th. And so, he was a little disappointed with that response, but we know it's going to take a little while to get most of the troops out of here.

And we've read the news stories that say that they are shooting for some time around June of next year to pull American troops out of the cities and then, about 2011, to try to have all combat troops leave the country. But, if that can be accelerated at all, I think that they would be excited for that, even though we redeploy and our unit probably won't be coming back to Iraq again. We have an awful lot of friends that would like to see the tours either get cut shorter or to have them go away completely.

CHADWICK: I don't know if you've had a chance to be out in the streets and see reaction from Iraqis there?

Captain RAWLINGS: Oh, just a little bit. But I've had friends that have done a lot of foot patrols in the last 24-48 hours, and I think everyone is pretty excited. Everyone really loves the idea of a bi-racial president who's lived all over the world and has a great international perspective. And I think the Iraqis are really positive. They have a positive idea of change he can bring and working with this country here.

CHADWICK: Isn't your deployment to Iraq going to end just about the time that Senator Obama becomes President Obama?

Captain RAWLINGS: Just shortly afterwards. He'll become president in January, and we're slated to come home - right now, we're hoping March. We're scheduled for 15-month deployment, which would bring us home in June, but we have heard a lot of reports that we're going to be coming home before that. So, we will be coming home shortly after he does assume the office of the presidency.

CHADWICK: So, you'll be there on active duty with a combat team in Iraq on January 20th. What do you want to hear President Obama say on inauguration day?

Captain RAWLINGS: I'm really looking forward to hearing his vision for what he wants to do with the military and how he wants to improve the parts that need improving. But as far as Iraq, I want him - I want to hear him say that, you know, he's going to bring our troops home, but that he's going to make sure that we leave enough behind and that we have what we need to see this thing through.

We're at a kind of a perilous junction here, where we've done a lot of the hard work, and a lot of the hard work was completed during the surge, by the brave troops that were here doing that time. But now, we have to really finish this thing out, and so I want to hear that he's going to eventually bring us home or rotate troops over to Afghanistan, but at the same time, allow the troop's time here to finish what we need to accomplish.

CHADWICK: Army Captain Nate Rawlings, he's with the First Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division. He's speaking with us from Baghdad. You can check out his dispatches at You can also post your comments and questions for Nate there. Captain Rawlings, thank you again.

Captain RAWLINGS: Thank you very much for having me.

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