By Ray McNulty
Special to American Forces Press Service
Jan. 15, 2009 - Nearly 900 former members of the "Sons of Iraq" civilian security group officially joined the ranks of the Iraqi police at a graduation ceremony here yesterday. Numbering 894 men and three women, they are the second class drawn from former Sons of Iraq members to graduate from the month-long police academy course at the Al Furat Police Training Center. Last month's graduating class of 1,031 included 19 female police officers.
"These two graduations are tangible proof that the government of Iraq has kept its promise," Maj. Gen. Khadim of the provincial directorate of police for Baghdad, said through an interpreter. "It offered Iraqi police jobs and training to former Sons of Iraq in recognition of their service. We will continue to extend a salute of respect and partnership to those who wish to serve with us."
Registration has begun for the next class of police candidates, who will begin training before the end of January. Early indications point to another history-making class, which is expected to include nearly 500 female recruits, officials said.
"This transition of Sons of Iraq into the Iraqi police is a visible sign of reconciliation," Army Col. Byron Freeman, commander of 8th Military Police Brigade, said. "Every graduation like today's is a clear sign of progress. This effectively heals sectarian conflict with a sought-after job."
Since Oct. 1, the Sons of Iraq program, previously administered by coalition forces, has been the responsibility of the Iraqi government. At that time, the Sons of Iraq rolls numbered nearly 100,000 throughout the country.
(Ray McNulty works in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 8th Military Police Brigade.)