FALLUJAH, Iraq -- More than 800 Iraqi men enlisted in the Iraqi Army during a three-day recruiting drive here by a Mobile Recruiting Team from the Ministry of Defense.
The 813 recruits were part of a larger recruiting effort to enlist 1,000 Iraqi men from the Al Anbar Province into the Iraqi Army.
“The overall goal is to enlist 5,000 recruits from Al Anbar Province by the end of October, but they are getting recruited in groups of 1,000,” said Capt. Selden B. Hale, a recruiting advisor traveling with the MRT and assigned to the Headquarters Transition Team under Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq.
One thousand recruits is the maximum capacity of the Basic Combat Training course, the first stop for the new recruits. The recruits will learn basic infantry skills during the five-week training package before being assigned to an army unit.
Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, facilitated the recruiting effort by providing personnel to work at the recruiting site. Soldiers provided food and water to the recruits as they moved them through the recruiting process.
Fallujah police officers assisted in the recruiting effort by providing a security escort for recruits from downtown Fallujah to the recruiting station near the city’s edge.
“The IAs and IPs did a phenomenal job,” said Maj. Brian D. Wirtz, an operations advisor with the Military Transition Team assigned to 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division.
“Their success demonstrates the great cooperation between the city government officials and the Iraqi security forces,” added Wirtz, a 32-year-old from Carlsbad, Calif.
The recruiting effort here took place without incident, despite a national trend of insurgent attacks on security force recruiting sites.
“In the past, recruiting sites have been lucrative targets for insurgents,” Hale said. “The Iraqis have made tremendous efforts in force protection. They did all the things they needed to make the recruiting centers safe and secure.”
The recruits will most likely be assigned to either the 1st or 7th Iraqi Army Division, both of which are stationed in the Al Anbar Province. Most of the soldiers will remain in the infantry ranks. Others will be sent to follow-on schools to learn an applicable trade, such as humvee mechanic or cook.
“We’re looking forward to them coming,” said Army Capt. John W. Lee, 32, from Falls Church, Va., serving as an advisor with the Military Transition Team assigned to 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division.
The 4th Brigade currently has one battalion operating in the city of Fallujah and two battalions operating in nearby cities.
“They will be great at intelligence gathering because it will be easier for them to blend in with the local populace,” Lee said.
The majority of soldiers currently assigned to the 4th Brigade come from areas outside the Al Anbar Province.
“Also, the Fallujah people will feel more confident and see them as defenders of the people, not occupiers,” he added. “Iraq is a very ‘clannish’ society. They view anyone from outside their region as outsiders.”
The MRT made recruiting visits to Al Qaim, Ar Ramadi, and Haditha before stopping in Fallujah.
“We tried to visit most major cities within Al Anbar,” said Hale, a 31-year-old artillery officer from Amarillo, Texas.
The use of mobile recruiting teams allowed Iraqis who don’t live close to a permanent recruiting station an opportunity to enlist in the army.
The MRT is comprised of five members who screen and process the potential future soldiers before accepting them as recruits. One of the members, a medical doctor, screens the recruits to ensure they are fit for military duty.
“I screen for mental, physical and psychological fitness,” said the Iraqi doctor assigned to the MRT working in Fallujah.
“We need fresh blood in this army,” added the doctor. “To have as strong army, we need strong soldiers.”
Another benefit of the mobile recruiting teams is that it provides the Iraqi Army a pool of enlisted men from across the country. Soldiers recruited into the ranks provide the army units with a variety of backgrounds and previous experiences.
“Of all the functions of the MOD, recruiting is probably one of the most heavily sustained by the Iraqis,” Hale added. “They operate their own recruiting stations and send out MRT’s on their own. The Coalition has very minimal involvement.”
Recruits must be between the ages of 18 and 37, pass a literacy test and be physically fit for military duty to enlist.