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Marines look for a few good Iraqi men

1 Jun 2004 | Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

Marines from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, hit the streets here to find a "few good men." 

The Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based battalion is on duty with the 1st Marine Division in Iraq. 

The potential recruits for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps were screened by Marines to make sure they would make the cut.

More than 30 men were interviewed at of a police compound inside the city. The test involved a reading comprehension test and a medical examination.

"We're here to find the guys who will eventually take over our job in Zadan," said Sgt. Howard L. Cates, from Denver and a squad leader with the Combined Anti-Armor Team.  "These guys will be hometown heroes.  They'll be the local kid making sure their streets are safe."

The process involved the men going through a basic medical examination to make sure they were fit for duty.

"We're basically looking for any deformities or health issues that would keep them from performing," said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kenneth S. Conklin, a 22 year-old hospital corpsman from Melbourne, Fla.  "That basically means we're out to spot major things like missing hands and feet and chronic or infectious diseases."

The men moved through three stations where their eyes, ears, mouth and nose were examined, blood pressure taken and finally a listen to their lungs with a stethoscope.

After the medical portion of the screening, the potential recruits were handed a reading comprehension form where they were asked to read simple word problems and write down the answers.

"This is a third-grade level test," Cates said.  "We're just trying to find out if they can read and write or not.  "There are a few people here who can't read at all.  This test helps us find that out."

The test booklets, along with the medical results, were collected at the end of the process and the men were sent home.  The next step for many of them will be the ICDC boot camp.  The initial training lasts seven days, followed by two weeks of infantry skills training. 

For many of the recruits it will all be old hat, Cates explained.

"Here today we have a former captain and a few lieutenants from the old Iraqi army," he explained.  "These guys will probably stand out during the training and be promoted to squad leaders and then onto leadership positions when they hit the streets."

At the end of the day, a few of the CAAT Marines thought about the significance of starting a new ICDC unit, which they will train.

"It's good to see a group of people motivated to improve their community.  It speaks very highly of them to volunteer," said 1st Lt. Samuel C. Cunningham, a 30-year-old from Indiana, Pa., and CAAT commander.  "Iraqis like to see hometown boys on the street.  They'll be much more likely to approach and help a man they've lived next to all their life than a Coalition Forces member.  It's a big step forward."

Cunningham added he and his Marines are looking forward to training the men in the upcoming weeks.