January 12th, 2007 11:51 EST
Hundreds of Ramadi residents join Police
AR RAMADI " Gunshots echoed in the distance as hundreds of hopeful Iraqi police recruits waited in line to join the fight against the insurgents still present within the city of Ramadi.
After three days of screening, roughly 400 Iraqi citizens out of the more than 600 applicants got their wish to become Iraqi police officers. On Jan. 8, the police recruits were transported to Jordan for the beginning of a five-week training course.
One year ago a murderous intimidation campaign prevented local Iraqis from enlisting in Ramadi. Recruiting numbers for police were insignificant.
More than 1,000 enlisted in the police force last month. Over 800 are expected to enlist in Anbar Province this month.
The local tribes stood up to the intimidation campaign and are taking back their city from the terrorists, " said the Coalition spokesman in Ramadi Marine Maj. Riccoh Player.
Hundreds of Iraqi police are holding areas cleared by Iraqi and American forces in recent operation in the worst neighborhoods of Ramadi, " said Player. Building and manning a police station in Ramadi is what progress looks like in a counterinsurgency. "
It`s a good thing for them, " said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Estes, the operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge for 2nd Battalion, 152 Infantry from Greenfield, Ind. It`s going to better their country and that`s what we are over here for " to train them so they can start patrolling their own area and take back what was taken from them. "
Estes said that before an Iraqi police recruit can pack his bags for training camp, he must go through a screening process to determine if he is mentally and physically ready for the challenge.
The Ministry of the Interior sets the standards, such as being a male between the ages of 18 and 53, while service members are here to enforce those standards, Estes said.
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 inside doing the screenings.
The potential police officers were checked for pre-existing medical conditions prior to making their way to the physical fitness test. The recruits had to complete 10 push-ups, 20 sit-ups, and finish a 100-meter dash.
At the security station, Iraqis were asked about their education level, prior work experience, and their native tribe. The recruits were also questioned 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 Capt. Michael Murphy, the Iraqi Security Forces operations officer with the 1st Armored Division.
Murphy, from Bedford, Pa., said the service members do background checks on each applicant, and depending on the level of the crime, an Iraqi can still be considered for the police force.
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, 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, " he said.
Iraqis turned away because of the written exam are encouraged to acquire remedial training and then return the following month.
Once recruits make it successfully 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 successful completion of the academy in Jordan and 90 consecutive days of work, the IP is given a pistol in addition to his rifle. Murphy said receiving your pistol is a huge status symbol, which is important in the Iraqi culture.
Along with the pistol, the IP is granted a sizeable bonus almost the amount of a full month`s salary. It is a pretty generous bonus given the quality of life here and 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. Murphy said it was a fantastic sight.
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. "
These recruiting drives are usually held on a monthly basis to help up the manning level at area IP stations.
By Public Affairs Office
Camp Victory, Iraq