FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Scores of Iraqis volunteered to join the Iraqi Police during a recruiting drive held at several locations in and around Fallujah recently.
In total, 176 Iraqis from the greater Fallujah area signed on to become police officers. Marines from Regimental Combat Team 5 assisted in the recruiting effort.
“In spite of the fact that the police are being targeted, these guys stand forward and join the force,” said Col. Larry Nicholson, RCT-5’s commanding officer. “That speaks more eloquently than any Iraqi or American commander can. They are voting with their feet.”
Since Aug. 1, nine Iraqi policemen were killed in the line of duty, according to Lt. Col. Frank Charlonis, the RCT-5 police implementation officer.
While sporadic bursts of small-arms fire echoed from several blocks away and mortar rounds landed nearby, the eager Iraqi applicants signed their way through a stack of paperwork in a sweltering gymnasium.
“I want to protect my city and fight against terrorism,” said one applicant through an interpreter while waiting in line.
Another applicant readily agreed and added, “I have a big desire to be a police officer.”
Though many of the applicants were inspired to join the force by sentiments of patriotism, others were enticed more by the economic incentives.
“This is a function of economics,” said Capt. Mark Jamouneau, an infantry officer from Dullsborg, Pa., serving as officer-in-charge of the Fallujah Police Transition Team.
“I don’t think any of us would do this for free,” Nicholson said. “But this is a demonstration of their faith ... clearly, there are other ways for these guys to make a living.”
Regardless of their motivations, these men will risk the same fate as do all those who commit themselves to promoting the stability of Fallujah.
Staff Sgt. Gabriel Algarin, a 27-year-old communications chief from Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, said he admired the Iraqi police recruits for volunteering during trying times, saying it “takes a brave man, takes heart.”
“I got to give it to them,” Algarin said. “It’s a tough situation.”
The campaign, the second of its kind in the last four months, was choreographed and supervised by Jamouneau, but the operation itself was executed by staff drawn from the Navy, Army, and IP.
The weekend’s drive targeted the outlying regions of Fallujah, unlike the previous drive, which sought recruits from within Fallujah, Charlonis said.
“There is a desire by many to join the police in their local area,” he said. “This is a big step toward providing opportunities for serving in the Iraqi Police in their areas.”
Currently, 1,700 Iraq police serve in greater Fallujah.
The applicants were collected from four regions on the outskirts of Fallujah including Ferris, Amiriyah, Gharmah and Saqlawiyah.
After completing preliminary screenings in their respective communities, the police recruits were transported by RCT-5 Marines to the IP station in downtown Fallujah where they were processed.
Applicants ran the gauntlet of examinations at the police station’s gymnasium to verify they met prerequisites for entry into the program and were suited to become policemen.
Marines administered tests to gauge the applicants’ physical fitness, medical wellbeing and security status.
Applicants also signed two documents renouncing and rejecting the Ba’ath party and its ideology.
Within the week, they will enroll in an eight-week training course offered by the Jordan International Police Training College, Charlonis said, where they will be schooled in the fundamentals of police work.
The drive and the subsequent training packages in Jordan represent the “basic first step of building the police,” Algarin said.
Algarin said Marines assisted because “civilians feel more confidence when they see a Marine face.”
It was more than that, though.
“We care,” he said.