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Hundreds of Ramadi Residents Join Iraqi Police

Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2007 – After three days of screening, about 400 Iraqi citizens out of more than 600 applicants got their wish to become Iraqi police officers recently in Ramadi, Iraq. They were transported to Jordan Jan. 8 for a five-week training course.

A year ago, a murderous intimidation campaign prevented local Iraqis from enlisting in Ramadi. This kept recruiting numbers for police at insignificant levels, according to Multinational Corps Iraq officials.

That has changed, more than 1,000 enlisted in the police force last month, and more than 800 are expected to enlist in Anbar Province this month, officials said.

"The local tribes stood up to the intimidation campaign and are taking back their city from the terrorists," said U.S. Marine Maj. Riccoh Player, coalition spokesman in Ramadi. "Hundreds of Iraqi police are holding areas cleared by Iraqi and American forces in recent operation in the worst neighborhoods of Ramadi.

"Building and manning a police station in Ramadi

is what progress looks like in a counterinsurgency," he added.

Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Estes, operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the 2nd Battalion, 152nd Infantry Regiment, said that before an Iraqi police recruit can pack his bags for training camp, he must go through a screening process. That process includes meeting Iraqi Ministry of Interior standards, such as being a male between the ages of 18 and 53, and passing tests to determine if he is mentally and physically ready for the challenges ahead.

Throughout the day, American vehicles periodically dropped off the optimistic candidates out front of the tiny building on Camp Blue Diamond, where soldiers and Marines were busy conducting the screenings.

The potential police officers were checked for pre-existing medical conditions before taking a physical fitness test, which included completing 10 push-ups, 20 sit-ups and a 100-meter dash.

Iraqis also were asked about their education level, prior work experience, and their native tribe. The recruits faced questions about previous arrests and had to a sign a waiver denouncing the Ba’ath Party, the political party of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Prior experiences are not necessarily a disqualifying factor, said U.S. Army Capt. Michael Murphy, 1st Armored Division, who serves as an operations officer with the Iraqi security forces. Each applicant is subject to a background check, and applicants are evaluated individually.

"A guy who wants to get a job to feed his family and protect his neighborhood but maybe had some indiscretions in the past ... we are giving them the opportunity now to rectify that and to come back onto the side of their people," he said.

If an Iraqi was a former member of the Ba'ath party and can provide the paperwork proving his disassociation with the group, he may still be considered for the force, Murphy said. Yet, the troops are not taking any chances.

"If we have any recent reporting that they are corrupt or that they are insurgents, then we disqualify them," Murphy said. "But, by and large, insurgent activity from 2003 is not a disqualifying factor."

Something that will prevent an applicant from moving on is a failure on the literacy test, and Murphy said that it the biggest challenge so far.

To minimize this obstacle, Murphy said a new three-week literacy training program is being headed at local Iraqi community centers to boost the literacy rate for those who have failed the exam.

"Although it is not going to get them to a Shakespeare literature level of literacy, they are going to be able to pass the basic literacy test for entrance into the police academy," Murphy said.

Once recruits successfully make it through all the stations, they are shipped to Jordan to receive the fundamentals in police work. After five weeks, they return to their station and begin working side-by-side with the Police Transition Teams and the Iraqi Police Liaison Officers.

After 90 consecutive days of work, the newly minted police officer is given a pistol in addition to his rifle. Murphy said receiving a pistol is a huge status symbol, which is important in the Iraqi culture.

Along with the pistol, the officer is granted a sizeable bonus nearly equal to a full month's salary. "It is a pretty generous bonus given the quality of life here and the cost of living," Murphy said.

None of the events that occurred over the course of the three days would have been possible without the help of the Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army, Murphy said. "They are our greatest opportunity for advertising," he said.

Murphy said that after the word gets out about the drive, many of the Iraqi's have a hard time getting to the site for processing. On this particular day, troops brought in more than 40 recruits from an area that has never had any applicants before, because it was always too dangerous.

Marines traveled down the Euphrates River and safely escorted them to the screening center.

"In a month and a half, they are going to man a new police station in an area where there hasn't been a police station before," he said. "That is the kind of stuff that we can do and the capabilities we bring to supplement the capabilities of the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police to make this kind of thing very successful."

Recruiting drives are usually held on a monthly basis to help increase the manning level at area Iraqi police stations.

(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

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