Friday, August 24, 2007

MPs help recruit future Iraqi Police

By Sgt. Ben Brody3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs
BAGHDAD - When the U.S. military started working with concerned citizens who had joined the fight against al-Qaeda, many critics pointed out the dangers of aligning with non-uniformed Iraqis with questionable allegiances. Six months later, the program has shown great success in quelling violence south of Baghdad, and Soldiers are taking the nextstep: integrating the volunteers into the legitimate security forces in Iraq. Military Police from 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., helped process Iraqi police applications for about 300 security volunteers at a school south of Baghdad Aug. 21. The application process includes a literacy test, a physical fitness test and a written denunciation of the Baath Party. In the school's courtyard, only about 20 yards square, Soldiers shouted instructions in Arabic as the recruits dashed back and forth to complete the 100-meter sprint. "They've got to do 10 push-ups, 20 sit-ups, five pull-ups, and the run to prove they're in good enough shape to handle the Iraqi Police Academy," said Sgt. Chih-Hsiung Easling, a 2nd BSTB military policeman from Dundee, N.Y. "About two-thirds of them make the cut." The application does not guarantee acceptance into the Iraqi Police Academy - spots are limited and selection is often difficult, said 1st Lt. Jordan Cook, the military police platoon leader for 2nd BSTB. "Once these guys have completed their application packets here, it puts them at an advantage when the Ministry of Interior decides to start hiring more IPs," said Cook, who is from Fort Worth, Texas. "The people who already have complete packets get looked at first for jobs." The volunteers were originally recruited by Soldiers of 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT, who also provided a security detail for the day's event. The number of Iraqi men who stood in line for hours just to fill out an application underscores the scarcity of jobs in the farmland south of Baghdad. "It's great that we are able to gather up hundreds of people who are willing and able to become police officers, just like that," said Lt.Col. Jeff Harrison, 2nd BSTB commander. "These volunteers have done great things for us, and now they're the key to increasing the legitimate Iraqi Security Forces." The mission was a new direction for the 2nd BSTB's military police platoon, said Staff Sgt. William Thompson, a squad leader in the unit. "We've been doing (explosive ordnance disposal) escort for almost a year here," Thompson, of Newark, Ohio. "EOD escort is 24 hours on, 24 hours off, so although it's an important job, it gets old after a while. My guys are having fun working with the people, and really getting into the mission." Thompson turned to shout congratulations to an Iraqi man who, with great effort, completed his fifth and final pull-up. "Zien!" Thompson shouted as he passed the man a water bottle.

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