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Move over McGruff, here comes 'Farid the Crime-Fighting Falcon'

28 Aug 2004 | Cpl. Randy L. Bernard

The crime-fighting character named McGruff coined the famous phrase "take a bite out of crime" to help educate children across America.  In Iraq, the principle will hopefully soon be reproduced with 'Farid the Crime-Fighting Falcon.'

Marines with Military Police Company C here came up with the idea for a crime-fighting mascot to pass along to the Iraqi Police.  While this project is still in its introductory phase to the IP, Cpl. Justin Weber, a squad leader for the company, is the brains behind the bird.

"I was the first person to don the costume, and since then I've become known as Farid," said Weber, 25, of Dayton, Ohio.

Weber recounted first introducing the idea to the IP with a smile on his face.

"Two other Marines introduced me to the classroom of 35 Iraqi Police, and I came running in the door squawking and flapping my arms," Weber explained.  "They jumped back and were scared.  But once they got used to me, they started to understand what it was about."

The company put their heads together when thinking about what they could do to create a character, and they decided on a falcon for the values it represents.

"The original idea was to make the mascot 'Clucko the Crime-Fighting Chicken,'" said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rod Barnes, a platoon commander with the MPs, "But we decided the falcon represented dignity, strength and independence."

"The falcon is to the Iraqis as the eagle is to Americans," said Staff Sgt. Greg Orick, a platoon sergeant with Company C. "Weber has done an excellent job of portraying the falcon. It's almost like an extension of his personality.  It gives him a chance to relax and behave more animated and act playful."

It's not all fun and games when it comes to being a crime-fighting bird of prey, though.

"It gets really hot in there," Weber said.  "You can only be in there for about five minutes before sweat is running into your eyes."

The biggest challenge that the Marines will face while introducing Farid is explaining its purpose in the police force.  Although the IP have been coming to Al Asad to learn from US military policemen, many of them initially found it difficult to grasp where a bird costume fits into their line of work.

However, once the idea of Farid had been explained to the Iraqis as an educational tool for the Iraqi Police to use, they saw past the feathers and beak, explained Orick.

"It has a lot of potential as a liaison between the IP's and citizens of Iraq," said Orick. "They are unfamiliar with the idea of using a mascot to teach about fighting crime, but children will be drawn toward it."

It is this attraction for the children that the Marines hope will benefit the IP in teaching Iraq's youth about crime and danger in the area through visits to schools and other areas.

"It is still early in its development but the Iraqis think it is a good thing," Weber explained.

"He is a 'spokes-bird' of crime-prevention," Weber added.  "The Iraqis will have to see it in action for it to really sink in for them.  Once we give it to the Iraqis and they understand what it is about, it will do a lot of good."