Monday, August 06, 2007

Operation ‘New Blue’ brings Iraqi police plenty of recruits

Staff Sgt. Tony M. Lindback
3rd Inf. Div. Public Affairs Office

LUTIFIYAH, Iraq – Communities like Lutifiyah, Yusufyah, Mahmudiyah and Al Rasheed will be getting a little more brotherly love from the boys in blue thanks to a new operation.
Iraqi police recruiting, dubbed Operation New Blue, is putting residents in police stations to guard their own communities. Iraqi police stations in the area are currently assigned officers from outside communities.
The multi-phased operation began with recruits applying. During phase one recruits filled out applications and had their finger prints and picture taken and entered into a database to receive a background check. If the background check was cleared, the applicants were allowed to return for phase two, said Capt. William F. Jennings, commander, 23rd Military Police Company, from Fort Bragg, N.C., currently under tactical control of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).
Phase two of the drive took place, July 29 and was a day-long event. It consisted of a literacy test and a physical fitness test similar to the Army’s APFT.
“We had a total of 289 that actually came through the gate,” Jennings said. “But there were a total of 216 that were on our list from the first phase of the recruiting. The ones who weren’t on the list were escorted outside the gate and told that we would have a future recruiting drive there and they’d have another opportunity.”
The literacy test was more of a reading comprehension test, said Jennings. The recruits were given a paragraph written in Arabic and were then given five questions referencing the who, what, when, where and why of the material.
Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schaffer, police transition team chief for the Lutifiyah police station, 23rd MP Co., was in charge of the literacy test portion of event.

“They did better than I thought they would,” Schaffer said. “Being this far south of Baghdad, I’ve noticed in the past, the average Iraqi has a tough time reading and writing. Out of the guys we had come in, about 75 percent passed the literacy test.”
For those who passed the literacy test there were more obstacles to overcome -- 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, five pull-ups and a 100-meter dash had sweat pouring from many in the mid-day’s heat. Not all were prepared for the events as some wore sandals. Many sprinted barefoot on jagged rocks to meet the standards.
The guys at the recruiting drive are giving it all they got, said Schaffer. They’re sitting in the sun, 120 degrees in the straight sun, waiting in line all day long, he added.
“It’s determination,” Schaffer said. “Most of them are trying to provide for their families. I commend them for that.”
There hasn’t been a police station in these areas over the past four years, according to Jennings. He said its been a challenge getting enough police to do democratic policing operations in the urban areas, especially in the urban areas.
“The residents want to police their own,” Schaffer said. “That’s the best thing about the recruitment we did. The majority of them are from Lutifiyah and they’ll be protecting their own.”
To see the recruits walking the streets, providing a secure community for neighbors and family is the goal. It is hoped by Schaffer and Jennings that people will have the feeling that the local law enforcement is family, and that will inspire them to help clean up their towns and rid them of illegal activity.

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