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Successful Iraqi police recruiting means more security, stability in small Al Anbar city

20 Aug 2006 | Sgt. Roe F. Seigle

Editor’s Note: Names of the Iraqis featured in this article have been changed for their protection.

A weeklong recruiting effort this month netted 77 qualified Iraqi police candidates – an improvement over the 45 who volunteered to “protect and serve” last month in this small, Al Anbar Province city

The candidates, all local men between the ages of 18 and 42, will be sent to police academies in Jordan and Baghdad later this month where they’ll spend eight to 10 weeks training to become police officers.

Currently, there are more than 60 officers serving in this small town of 30,000, which is located along the Euphrates River just miles east of a large U.S. military base at Al Asad.

“The candidates we screened and accepted today are very brave men,” said Sgt. Ken Bates, 31, an activated reservist assigned to the transition team.  “They know that insurgents will threaten them but that does not stop them from wanting to protect their country from criminals.”

Transition teams are groups of U.S. service members responsible for mentoring Iraqi soldiers and police officers towards eventually relieving Coalition Forces of security operations in Iraq.

Past recruiting efforts proved unsuccessful and sometimes netted a number of recruits in single digits because of a heavy insurgent “murder and intimidation” campaign, as the American military calls it – insurgents threaten anyone in the area who cooperates with coalition forces or Iraqi Security Forces.

This latest recruiting effort proved to be the most successful one to date in Baghdadi. Previous recruiting efforts resulted in minimal numbers, said Bates, a native of Modesto, Calif.

Now that the police officers in this desert region are receiving regular pay and much needed equipment – such as police vehicles, body armor, hand guns, and uniforms – recruiting efforts have proved much more successful, according to the Marines.

The recruit screening took place at the local Police Station, located in the heart of this Saddam-era military housing complex.  The candidates underwent a physical fitness test, medical exam, background check, literacy test and an interview with retired U.S. police officers before being accepted for service. 

“Now that Iraqis are seeing that their government is getting stronger, they are much more eager to become policemen,” said Gunnery Sgt. Charles Huff, 42, the transition team’s intelligence advisor.  “The word is getting around and the more police we can recruit, the better off this city is going to be when coalition forces withdraw.”

Some of the recent recruits served as police officers during the Saddam era.  After being accepted for service, the new candidates were sent to the academies in Jordan and Baghdad, but only for a refresher course, said Bates, a reservist who is a San Francisco Police Officer when he’s not activated to serve in the Marine Corps.

Although recruits had individual reasons for becoming policemen, the majority said they were tired of insurgents being the only form of authority in their hometowns. 

“I want to defend my fellow Iraqi people who are law-abiding and tired of criminals like I am,” said “Jamal,” a police recruit.  “I refuse to let my country be run by a bunch of criminals who no conscience who think it is alright to hurt women and children.” 

“Ahmed,” one of the police officers present to assist with the screening said that Baghdadi has become a much more peaceful city this year because the policemen work hand-in-hand with the Iraqi soldiers and U.S. Marines here to provide security. 

The Marines, from the Hawaii-based Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, have spent months now patrolling the region with Iraqi soldiers and police officers, providing much-needed security to an area once run by insurgents.

Now that the Baghdadi police force will double with the number of recent recruits, insurgent activity will continue to become a rarity, said Ahmed.

“The Marines came here to fight insurgents and they have done a good job,” said Ahmed.  “Now it is time for the Marines to go back home to their families and let us defend our country and fight insurgents.”

In the next few months, there will be another police recruiting and screening drive here, and Marines say they believe it will net more than 100 recruits. 

“The police we have now are working with the community to weed out insurgents and it is making an impact on the area,” said Bates. “The residents see this and they in turn support the police and coalition forces.

“Crime is going to happen, but in the end, it is going to be Iraqis fighting insurgents, not coalition forces,” he said.

Email Sgt. Seigle at seiglemf@gcemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil