CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Soldiers from the 1st Iraqi Army Division enlisted 293 Iraqi males from greater Fallujah and Habbaniyah as part of an al Anbar province-wide recruiting drive Tuesday and Wednesday.
“They looked enthusiastic about doing this, and that’s a good sign,” said Maj. William Gerst, a Regimental Combat Team 5 assistant operations officer who assisted the Iraqis in the coordination of the campaign. “It’s a sign that they notice we’re here to help them and they are taking control of their own destiny.”
“I want to serve our country and defend Iraq,” said one recruit through an interpreter.
“Patriotism ... I want to defend my country,” said another.
After undergoing literacy tests, medical examinations, physical fitness evaluations and security screenings, the eligible applicants signed contracts adorned with the Arabic header, “In the Name of God.”
The recruits were then transported by Marines from RCT-5 to a month-long boot camp in Habbaniyah staffed solely by Iraqi personnel drawn from the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Brigades of the 1st Iraqi Army Division.
Upon graduation from basic training, the Iraqi soldiers will report to the Iraqi division of their choice and receive a period of leave.
“This is very important,” said Hassanian Mussa, a 32-year-old interpreter from Kut, Iraq, attached to 2nd Brigade. “This is a good step for these guys. The new government gives these guys the opportunity to show their loyalty to their country.”
Cpl. Clayton Busenga, a 22-year-old from Long Beach, Calif., assigned to a 2nd Brigade Military Transition Team, shared similar sentiments.
“It shows that we are working on leaving Iraq pretty strongly,” he said.
The courage of the Iraqi recruits elicited applause from Marines and Iraqis alike present at the drive.
“The individual Iraqis know they are going to get targeted ... so I give them credit for that,” Busenga said.
“These guys are very brave,” said Hassanian Musa.