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New Team Arrives to Help With Recruitment

By Spc. Al Barrus, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 4, 2004 – While Iraqi police applicants lined up outside Camp Hawk for screening Oct. 3, the newly deployed soldiers of the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion from Utica, N.Y., got the chance to experience their area of operations and learn more about the people of Baghdad.

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Staff Sgt. Patrick Cummings, 414th Civil Affairs Battalion from Utica, N.Y., oversees Iraqi police applicants do sit-ups as part of their initial fitness test. Other portions of this test included push-ups, pull-ups and a 100-meter dash. Photo by Spc. Al Barrus, USA
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Since the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, will be heading home soon, they are integrating the 414th into civil military operations. The 414th has been in country for two weeks, and this event gave them the opportunity to get familiar with working with the Iraqi people.

"This is an outstanding mission for us to be doing with the new [CA] team," said Capt. Marc Chung, a 425th team leader. "We have already taken them on some patrols to see some projects, but this is what it's all about: working with the Iraqi people and working with the [neighborhood councils]."

When the teams arrived at the recruitment area, the veteran team set up stations and showed the newcomers the ropes. "You can see right now a lot of my guys are hanging back," Chung said. "We have the new guys ... learning their part at the processing stations and have them taking over."

As the new soldiers gained some know-how of the event and environment, hopeful Iraqi men stood in line waiting to take tests in order to be accepted into Iraqi police basic training.

"All the men here have been given a recommendation by their [neighborhood councils], which shows they have been somewhat screened for fitness and literacy," said 425th Spc. Justin Cardoza. "Here we have them take the [physical training] test consisting of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and 100- meter dash."

The next station would test Arabic literacy, then they would be given a physical exam and urinalysis, Cardoza said. The final step is a background screening, after which they are given a letter of acceptance and orders to report back to Camp Hawk.

It was a tough time for many of the applicants. During these recruitments, only about 40 percent pass to go on to police school in Jordan. For those who fail, it's another day they go without work. But for some, becoming an Iraqi policeman is more than just a job.

"I have always wanted to serve my country and protect my family and fellow Iraqis from the terrorists that threaten us everyday," said Husam Hamadi, a graduate of Baghdad University. "I think serving in the Iraqi police as an officer is the best way for me to do this."

It's citizens like these that give the 414th's soldiers the motivation to help make a better life for the people in Baghdad, Chung said. "It's not only important for the 414th to take over, but to also make improvements over time in not only events like these, but the civil affairs mission as a whole."

Chung said they do not want to have to turn away Iraqis who want to help protect their country. "If the applicants do get rejected for any reason, we would like to have contractors standing by with jobs available," Chung said.

"It's something that just helps get them into the system, and we don't have to turn patriotic Iraqi people away. That's something I would like to do, but since we are leaving soon, the 414th can cover down on it."

Because of the standard set by the 425th, it will be a difficult task, said Staff Sgt. Patrick Cummings, a 414th team sergeant. On the other hand, he said he feels that his team is well-trained for the streets of Baghdad. "Most all of my team has already done a deployment in Afghanistan," he said.

"We know that Iraq is a whole different place, but I think we have enough ground lain down so we can be situationally aware in our new sector. We just hope we can live up to the bar that our predecessors have set in [civil military operations]. They have done an outstanding job here with the projects going on, and Captain Chung is giving us advice to keep raising that bar."

Cummings admits that it will be a rigorous mission, especially with a new battalion taking over their sector. The changeover will require his team to pass on civil affairs knowledge to a new battalion, but his team is confident.

"We aren't going to try and set the world on fire," Cummings said. "We're just going to try and keep reliable and consistent CMO throughout the sector."

(Army Spc. Al Barrus is assigned to the 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSpc. Justin Cardoza of the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion sets up the literacy screening station at the Iraqi police recruiting outside Camp Hawk Oct. 3. As Cardoza's unit prepares to re-deploy back to the U.S., they are helping integrate their replacements, the 414th CA, into their operations during this event. Photo by Spc. Al Barrus, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA hopeful Iraqi police applicant gives his all during the fitness test. The Field-expedient recruiting depot just outside Camp Hawk included a pull-up bar placed across two Humvee turrets. Photo by Spc. Al Barrus, USA  
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