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Marines, Iraqi police patrol streets together in western Iraq

27 Apr 2004 | Lance Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.

Iraqi police who were trained by Marines just a couple weeks ago are already walking the beat here.

Recent graduates from Al Qaim Police Academy's first class conducted a week-long on-the-job training program.  The police patrolled the streets with Marines from Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.

Forty-two police spent a week using a buddy system with Company K after finishing a training course with Marine military police.  They conducted patrols, using the skills taught to them to eventually assume full responsibility for security here.

"I think these guys will be ready when we leave," said Lance Cpl. Mark Edward Dean, a team leader from Owasso, Okla.  "The difference in these guys compared to those who haven't gone to the school shows a lot.  The MPs did a great job."

Only a fraction of the nearly 700-member police force has been to school, but Marine have high hopes.  Marine-trained Iraqi police are working with those still awaiting training and are already passing along lessons. 

"Everyone knows they have a long way to go," said 1st Lt. Rudy Salcido, executive officer for Company K, from Tucson, Ariz.  "My guys are already impressed with them.  They're applying what they learned and using it out on the patrols."

The graduates wear a gold pin on their shoulder to differentiate themselves from those who have yet to complete the training.

"Our goal was to get them all out here and help the MPs give them some on the job training," Salcido said.  "We're not going to be here for long, so they need to know this."

The academy, now a live-in formal school, has just a little more than one hundred new recruits.  The training there is designed to give the Iraqi Police force basic fundamentals of being a police officer.

"Just by the way they handle their weapons you can tell who's been and who hasn't," said Lance Cpl. Joshua P. Carbajal, squad leader from Newhall, Calif.  "I let some of the guys set up checkpoints by themselves and they do it correctly."

Marines have patrolled alongside Iraqis for the past three days completing as many as twelve patrols a day.  They turned the town's police station into a patrol base, operating inside the city of Karabilah. 

"We do four hours on, eight hours off," Dean explained.  "When we're not patrolling with them, we're standing post.'

Many Marines enjoy patrolling with the Iraqi Police, helping them add something different to their normal everyday routine.

"I like this," said Lance Cpl. Finnis Le, an Atlanta motor transportation Marine attached to the battalion.  "They'll teach me some Arabic and I'll teach them some English.  It's fun and makes things a lot less boring."

Marines were starting to warm up to the Iraqi police.  Seeing them on the street earned their respect and reassured them they would stand and fight against terrorists.

"I'd take these guys with me in a firefight," Dean sad.  "I believe they're all good guys and have good training."

There is a still a long way to go, though.  Marines aren't expecting overnight changes and take pride in the small progress the Iraqi police demonstrate.

"At first they'd leave their post," Salcido explained.  "Now they'll stand post and do it with enthusiasm.  That's all we ask, is that they do things with enthusiasm.  They're a volunteer force and, as we know, it always works better that way - having someone there who wants to be there."