FERRIS, Iraq -- Dozens of Iraqi men waited outside an Iraqi Police station here at the break of dawn to enlist and serve their country, May 8.
Marines from I Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, provided logistical and security support during an Iraqi Army recruiting drive. It was overseen by Iraqi policemen. It was part of a recruiting drive to bring Iraqis from the outskirts of Fallujah to the Iraqi Army. A similar drive held nearly two months ago inside Fallujah brought in more than 800 men.
Lance Cpl. Michael Betancourt, an infantryman with I Company, watched from the observation tower as the recruits lined up outside.
“The turnout looks pretty decent,” said 21-year-old Betancourt, from Chicago. “There are quite a few recruits out there.”
Marines remained on the fringes, for the most part. This was an Iraqi-led effort between Iraqi Army recruiting teams and Iraqi police assisting in screening.
“Our role pretty much is to provide security for the IP’s as they do the screening, then provide transportation for the IA recruits,” said 2nd Lt. Chuck Miller, 1st Platoon Commander, I Company.
The 29-year-old from McKinney, Texas oversaw the event as the new recruits lined up in groups of twenty before boarding seven-ton trucks dispatched by the battalion’s headquarters.
“We’re close to 70 right now, and should be close to a hundred by close of business this morning,” Miller said after an hour of watching the recruits file into the compound one by one.
The Marines transported 95 Iraqi Army recruits to the nearby training facility where they were sworn in to defend their country.
Betancourt said the turnout was a good sign for the future of Iraq’s Army.
“It’s a good turnaround for the city,” he said. “When we leave, they’ll have enough to keep this place secure.”
Marines took heart in the willingness of Iraqi men to step forward and protect their neighbors.
“I’m pretty excited to see all these young Iraqi men join the Iraqi Army so they can improve their country,” said Staff Sgt. David Joseph Morisset Jr., platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon. “I’m proud of them.”
The 28-year-old from Princeton, Minn. said the recruits were ready to follow orders without question as he ushered them toward their future.
“They stand in line, then I tell them to follow me and get in the vehicles, then once they get in there, I have water for them so they can stay hydrated,” he said. “We’re pretty much taking care of them so I can show them the Americans are helping them out. It’s a good group of civilians that are joining.”
When asked why they are joining, two Iraqi recruits gave the same response. It was similar to answers Marines themselves might give if asked about their decision to join the military. They explained they wanted to serve their country in hopes of building a peaceful Iraq.
“It’s a good idea,” said Lance Cpl. Willie Burpl, a 22-year-old infantryman from Birmingham, Ala. “It gets the people involved as far as doing something for their government and doing something for their country.”
The recruiting drive is taking place at several locations across the Al Anbar Province.