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Iraqi Army Recruitment Drive Draws Thousands

By Sgt. Lorie Jewell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

A SOUTHERN IRAQ MILITARY FACILITY, Feb. 15, 2005 – Between 8,000 and 10,000 men arrived by foot, bus and other means by sun-up Feb. 14 at an airfield outside an Iraqi army base to join the Iraq's army, officials said.

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An Iraqi soldier gives a recruit a literacy test as thousands of other recruits wait in formation. The test was part of the screening process for a Feb. 14 recruitment drive for the Iraqi army. Photo by Sgt. Lorie Jewell, USA
  

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Of that, about 5,000 made it through a screening process that led them onto the base, which is home to several thousand Iraqi soldiers and a contingent of U.S. servicemembers. Most will be transferred to other bases in Iraq to supplement existing units, officials said.

The process was a result of the largest recruitment effort for the Iraqi army to date, said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Woodley of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq.

During screening, potential recruits were given a literacy test and a physical- condition check, and were questioned about prior military service. Once inside the base, they went through a medical screening and received uniforms, boots and other military-related clothing.

Leaders told those who were turned back or did not make it through the screening to return for another recruitment drive.

Many recruits showed up with proof that they were serving when Saddam Hussein's regime fell and were subsequently released from duty. Former Iraqi army Maj. Hussien Ali Kadhun, 48, traveled about an hour and a half by bus to rejoin.

"I want to serve my country and fight the terrorists," he said through a translator. Ali Kadhun said he graduated from a military college in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in military science. He returned to school to study law shortly after his release from the army in 2003.

Another former soldier, Hakeem Shaial Hassan, 27, worked as a farmer after his first stint in the Army. It took him nearly four hours to get to the airfield with a group of friends. His quest for service would provide him and his family with a better income. New recruits earn 420,380 dinars a month, about $212 in U.S. dollars, officials said.

"I am proud that I made it," Shaial Hassan said through an interpreter. "But I am sad that my friends did not. They will have to go back home and tell their families they did not make it."

U.S. Army officials were expecting a little more than 6,000 potential recruits. U.S. military members from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy were joined by several civilian security personnel and a few hundred Iraqi soldiers stationed at the base for the screening. Several dozen Iraqi soldiers arrived at the base the day before and went right to work early the next morning, said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mark Harvey, base commander.

"We encountered all friendlies, no bombs and no deaths," Harvey said. "So I'm happy."

(Army Sgt. Lorie Jewell is assigned to Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq Public Affairs.)

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Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq

Click photo for screen-resolution imageThousands of Iraqi men arrived by foot, buses and other vehicles at the outskirts of an airfield near an Iraqi army base before sun-up Feb. 14 and then walked several miles through screening checkpoints set up along a runway to join the Iraqi army. Photo by Sgt. Lorie Jewell, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageBy 7 a.m., several thousand men arrived at an airfield near a southern Iraqi army base Feb. 14 to join the Iraqi army. Between an estimated 8,000 and 10,000 men showed up as part of the largest recruitment effort to date, officials said. Photo by Sgt. Lorie Jewell, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAn Iraqi army recruit collects his uniforms, boots and other gear as he makes his way through the base's clothing issue facility during an Iraqi army recruitment drive Feb. 14. Photo by Sgt. Lorie Jewell, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAfter making their way through screening check points, a group of several hundred Iraqi army recruits lined up in rows on an airfield runway to wait for transportation to a nearby Iraqi army base Feb. 14. Photo by Sgt. Lorie Jewell, USA  
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