CAMP AR RAMADI, Iraq -- The Iraqi police force is growing stronger thanks to reserve Marines attached to 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
Despite recent attacks against Iraqi security forces, the Ar Ramadi Police Academy here graduated 88 men during a morning ceremony April 22.
This is the first class Marines trained since arriving here.
The Iraqi policemen received their training from the Marine instructors, who all serve as full-time law enforcement agents when not on active duty.
"Our job in Iraq is to provide the basics of law enforcement and defense tactics to the Iraqi people," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ron Brown, academy administration officer and instructor.
During the three-week course, students were up before the crack of dawn for physical training or self-defense classes. Then they got down to the nitty-gritty of police tactics.
"The curriculum includes classes like handcuffing procedures, communications, first aid, building clearing and weapons handling," explained Brown, a Topeka, Kan., police officer.
The men who attended the academy are a mixture of seasoned veterans and rookie policemen.
Iraqi Police Lt. Col. Rafea Muhmoud Mustafa, class honor graduate, has been a police officer for 21 years but knew he still had much to learn about his profession.
"It was interesting learning new things from the Marine police," Mustafa said through an interpreter. "They taught us new ways to protect ourselves and the people in our community."
The team of 13 Marine instructors brings a great deal of experience to the table for their Iraqi counterparts.
"Most all of the instructors have about 10 to 25 years of experience," Brown said.
One of the instructors, 1st Sgt. Jeff P. Sesak, volunteered to deploy to Iraq and realized his job wouldn't be easy.
"The people here have a relatively new law enforcement system," Sesak, a sergeant with the El Dorado County, Calif., Sheriff's Department, said. "They don't have the same level of training and education as that of American police."
Sesak said the Marines focused on the "basics and fundamentals" of what it takes to be a policeman so the Iraqis would have a jumping off point on which to build.
"The guys who come through here know they have a lot to learn from us," Sesak said. "They all come here motivated to become policemen."
Mustafa, who works at a police station in Anna, Iraq, described the draw of becoming a part of the country's fledgling security force.
"It's an honor for us to become policemen and to help make peace for our people and their property," Mustafa explained.
Just like in America, Iraqi policemen deal with everyday criminals and thugs. However, the Iraqis have the added worry of stopping anti-Iraqi fighters whose goal is to disrupt Iraq's progress.
The Marines at the academy are working to prepare the Iraqi policemen to defeat these threats.
"I do not feel scared of insurgents," Mustafa added. "We want to protect the people of our community no matter what."
Lt. Col. Daniel J. Racca, academy commandant, said he and the rest of 1st Marine Division realize the Iraqi security force members have an "extremely dangerous duty and don't receive much recognition."
During the graduation ceremony, the freshly-trained Iraqi policemen were shown that their hard work in the community putting a stop to terrorism does not go unnoticed.
Four of Iraqi law-enforcement officers were recognized by the 1st Marine Division for their actions in fighting enemy forces.
Iraqi Capt. Hatim Daham Say'l-Mutaba, Lt. Omar Wahib Jassem, Sgt. Saadi Hamid Shukur and Policeman Mutez Jasim Muhammed were given medals of valor for their separate experiences fighting terrorism in Ar Ramadi during the past year.
All of the men received serious wounds during their bouts with terrorists.
"We wanted to show the men who are leaving the academy that we are standing behind them," explained Lt. Col. Daniel J. Racca, academy commandant. "They make a major sacrifice to their country and its citizens."
Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, 1st Marine Division's commanding general, wanted to honor the men for their valor and bravery while helping Coalition forces.
Iraqi Police Maj. Anwer Khdeeb Abd said he was inspired by the awards ceremony during his graduation.
"Those policemen are courageous," Abd said. "Every policeman should want to be like them. "They should all want to risk their lives to protect the people of Iraq."
The graduates also received recognition for completing the course. They were each given a certificate, uniform and pistol with ammunition.
"My thanks goes to the Marines for helping us become trained police officers," Abd said. "Now we can all go out there and help our country grow. We will work for the community."