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More than 300 Fallujan men brave danger to join police force

5 May 2006 | 1st Lt. Nathan Braden

More than 300 Fallujan men stepped forward to be Iraqi police recruits during a three-day recruiting drive here, despite a homicide bomber attack and the threat of additional violence.

The goal of the recruiting drive was to sign-up 300 Iraqi police recruits, however, the drive ended yesterday with 348 men accepted out of 402 screened applicants. 

“Our first mission was to ensure we got 300 successful applicants from the drive,” said Staff Sgt. Lamont L. Hall, the 33-year-old operations chief for the Police Transition Team assigned to the Fallujah Police District. 

“The second mission was to ensure the IP’s had a clear understanding of how to run a recruiting drive safely, because we might not be here next time,” added Hall, from Leadville, Colo.  

The recruiting effort gained international attention Wednesday when a homicide bomber detonated explosives concealed on his person at a screening checkpoint.  The bomber was standing with a crowd of potential recruits when the explosion occurred.

At least seven civilians were killed and 11 were wounded during the attack.  One Iraqi police officer was also injured.

Marines from Regimental Combat Team 5 responded to the site and assisted Fallujah police officers to secure the scene.

The recruiting process reopened approximately one hour after the attack, accepting additional recruits who volunteered despite the obvious danger.

“The fact that an overwhelming number of recruits arrived immediately after the attack signifies the local rejection of the intimidation and terrorism,” said Col. Larry D. Nicholson, commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team 5.

Applicants continued to came in from across Fallujah and outlying cities for the next two days.  Some were applicants who were injured in the homicide attack.

“We had a guy come in with burns on his face and others with bandages on their arms, that’s how bad they want to be cops,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kevin A. Foxworth, a 33-year-old military policeman and squad leader from the 300th Military Police Company assigned to assist the Fallujah Police Department in the recruiting effort. “They really want to make their city better.”

Of the three-day drive, the largest number of applicants came in the day of the attack, totaling 153.  On the first day, 118 were accepted and 77 on the third day.

“I was surprised by the turnout,” said U.S. Army Spc. Damian I. Markowycz, a 21-year-old military policeman assigned to assist the police provide security during the recruiting drive.  “I thought too many people were scared and they wouldn’t get the 300.  But, when we got there the first morning there was already 50 men waiting in line.”

“On the third day, there was still a large number that wanted to join that we had to turn away,” added Markowycz, from Dearborn Heights, Mich.

Minimum requirements for a recruit to be accepted are to pass a physical fitness test, be between the ages of 18-35 and be literate.  A background check and a medical exam were also part of the screening process.

However, the police force was also on the look out for certain types of individuals.
To have control in the city, they need a good police force, said Foxworth from Boston.  Police officers need the ability to take charge and make decisions. 

“They need honesty and integrity, just having pride and wanting to do a good job, that makes a good cop, either Iraqi or American,” Foxworth added.

There was no lack of enthusiasm by the recruits during the screening process.

“A lot were real motivated to be IP’s,” Foxworth said.  “They were really excited during the fitness portion.”

“Most were very grateful when they were accepted,” Hall added.  “They were happy for the opportunity and some of the guys we turned away were visibly disappointed.”

The reasons varied from applicant to applicant for wanting to join.  Some were just in search for a job.  Others were there for a less tangible purpose. 

“I talked with several of them with my interpreter and I could tell they were there for the right reasons, not just to collect a paycheck,” Markowycz added.  “They had the right attitude.  They’re sick and tired of the violence…they’re not scarred anymore and they want to make their country a better place.”

Many of the applicants were carrying on a family tradition by joining the police force, not too dissimilar to family traditions in police forces in the U.S.

“A lot of the recruits were family members of IP’s,” Hall said.  “I had IP’s pointing to an applicant and saying ‘my cousin’ or ‘my bother.’”
The overall capabilities of the police in the area are progressing as well.

“They have the knowledge to run an effective police station, they know how to do community service, do a thorough patrol and conduct investigations,” Foxworth said.  “It’s just a matter of going out and doing it.”

The recruits will travel to Jordan later this month to undergo eight weeks of training at the Jordanian Police Academy.  There they will learn basic law enforcement procedures and weapons handling.

The new police officers will go on leave until they receive acceptance letters from the Ministry of Interior, after successfully completing the academy.  They will then be assigned to a police station.