American Forces Press Service
July 15, 2008 - Amid showers of candy and shouts from family and friends, more than 250 new lieutenants joined the Iraqi army and air force after graduating from the Iraqi Military Academy here yesterday. The same day as the graduation at Rustamiyah, more than 400 cadets graduated from the academies at Zhako, Nasiriyah and Qualachalon.
"You are the future of Iraq," Iraqi Defense Minister Abd al-Qadir al-Mufriji said to the graduates. "You are who the country will count on for reconstruction and leadership."
The defense minister stressed the importance of working together for the country's future.
"From this place, I'm asking you all to be united," he said. "All work as one team, for Iraq only. Remember that you all have the same enemy. ... The biggest medal you can wear on your chest is the trust of the Iraqi people."
U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, told the graduates they were joining increasingly capable forces that will benefit from their leadership.
"You are about to join the Iraqi army and air force that have distinguished themselves in recent months against the enemies of Iraq," he said. "I know you will live the values you learned here, and that you will provide the courageous leadership the military expects of you."
The Rustamiyah academy was founded by the British in 1924 and is modeled after the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. It was closed in 2003 before the war, and since it reopened in 2005, Rustamiyah and the other three academies have graduated 4,800 new officers for the Iraqi armed forces.
The program of instruction is based on three training terms over a one-year period, as well as a six-month course for officer cadets who already have a university degree. Air force cadets go through the first term with their army counterparts, and then focus on air force and language training.
The year is broken into three 15-week training terms: junior, intermediate and senior.
The junior term focuses on basic military training such as drill, basic weapon-handling drills and physical training to make the transition from civilian to officer cadet. The intermediate term focuses on leadership principles, command positions, and section and platoon attacks. The senior term focuses on bringing all of the principles together, culminating in a final tactical training exercise that brings the cadets to final readiness for their first job in the Iraqi forces.
(From a Multinational Force Iraq news release.)