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Marines prepare boys in blue for duty

19 Jun 2004 | Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.

The class is small, but with proper training, Marines here are shaping the future of Iraq's security.

Marines with Regimental Combat Team 7's military police detachment began training a class of 10 Iraqi policemen June 19 at Camp Al Asad's first police academy.

The four-week course, taught by seven Marines and two International Police advisors, will teach the recruits everything from self-defense to police ethics.

"This course is four weeks long because we added an additional week to teach them how to teach fellow Iraqis," said Gunnery Sgt. Thomas K. Ballentine, the academy's chief instructor from Troy, Ohio.

Al Anbar's police chief specially selected the Iraqi students, seeking out men capable of retaining the information and passing it along to fellow Iraqi police after graduation.

"He gave us Iraqis he thought were capable of doing the job," said Maj. Quinn D. Auten, officer-in-charge of the military police detachment from Columbus, Ohio.  "We just wanted people who were energetic and willing to learn.  Already I like this group of guys."

Subsequent courses for Iraqi police are planned for three-week sessions, covering the same material as the first class.

"All we did was add a week," said Sgt. Loren R. Parker, the firearms instructor from Jasper, Tenn.  "We hope to be able to teach them in that way the proper way to pass on all the information."

It is important Iraqis are important to teach each other, according to Auten.  The graduates of the first class will be integrated back into the ranks of police forces across Al Anbar Province.  The hope is they'll be able to teach fellow IPs as well as lead by example, said Auten.

This will be the first time many of the instructors, both Marines and civilians, have daily contact with the locals and look forward to it.  Representatives from the U.S. State Department are also participating in the training process.

"I expect it to be a culture shock," Ballentine said.  "But, I think we all look forward to it."

"We're just here to help with the technique and some of the training," said Bob L. Neale, an International Police Advisor with a police department from Sebring, Fla.  "I think we help bridge the gap between civilians and the military, which helps."

Neale hopes to gain as much from the Iraqis as they do from him, as do many of the Marines. 

The day started with the Marines and policemen introducing themselves, asked what they wanted to achieve most many replied the safety and security of their country.

"We're happy to be here and learn their culture," Neale said.  "The Marines have put forth a phenomenal effort in getting this academy going.  It's been rewarding working with them."

The Marines, for the most part all members of the Marine Reserves, say the chance to train police while in Iraq helps because they understand law enforcement from military and civilian points of view.

"This is a great use of the reserve forces," Auten said.  "Almost all of us are officers in our regular lives.  It will really help bridge the gap between us.  We can look at them from an officer-to-officer standpoint."

Many Marines and Iraqis have high hopes for the new Iraqi policemen.

"The academies have been really successful throughout Iraq," Auten said.  "Many depend on us to prepare them to take over security of their country."

The course is nearly two months shorter than an average police academy in the United States and was condensed to help policemen survive, if nothing else.

"We give them what they need to survive," said Auten.  "Once they graduate we hope they pass on their knowledge and gain more as they go out with our troops on joint patrols."