American Forces Press Service
Feb. 27, 2009 - As the Iraqi government and coalition forces finish transferring all "Sons of Iraq" civilian security group volunteers to Iraqi control by April, the focus now is on their transition into jobs and educational programs, officials said. "We're all working together for the same purpose: to bring these young men back to the government, back to their country, and to continue to build a stable and secure Iraq. What you see is a result of this partnership. Things are falling into place," Army Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, deputy commanding general for operations, Multinational Corps Iraq, said.
Since late 2008, responsibility for more than 70,000 Sons of Iraq members across six provinces has transferred from the coalition to the Iraqi government. The transfer of the remaining members in three provinces -- Ninevah, Kirkuk and Salahuddin -- will be completed by April 1, Navy Lt. Cdr. Jeffrey Butcher of Multinational Corps Iraq said.
"At the same time, we are working closely with the government of Iraq to place [Sons of Iraq] members in meaningful jobs in the various ministries and private industry," he said.
The hiring process already has begun in Baghdad, home to more than 47,000 of the Sons of Iraq -- roughly half the national total. There, the Iraqi government has collected assessment forms from the men, describing their education, employment preferences, age and work skills.
"From that data, the government is going to be able to decide where those Sons of Iraq can go," Butcher said. "If they have prior background in the military, then they may be perfect candidates for security jobs -- the Iraqi police, as well as the army, national police, border patrol and diplomatic protection."
"Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has made the employment process a top priority for the national government," he added.
Maliki's Executive Order 118-C mandates that 20 percent of the Sons of Iraq will take jobs in the nation's security forces.
The other 80 percent are expected to enter employment within the government's ministries. Butcher said the ministries eventually will be able to draw their new hires from federal employment centers located throughout the country and operated by the government's Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.
"We're working by, with and through the government of Iraq to get those employment centers running," Butcher said. "We've equipped them with some of the necessary [information technology] equipment, and we're working with the government to create them as part of the Ministry of Labor's network. The goal is to use the centers to be able to employ and work with the ministries to get the [Sons of Iraq] in there, in accordance with their skills and inclinations."
The Ministry of Education, in particular, has stepped up as a prospective employer for the men. The ministry expects to have about 10,000 positions available in Baghdad, many of them security-related, in the men's local school districts.
For Sons of Iraq interested in entrepreneurship, more diverse opportunities are available. "The main goal is to place them in the ministries, but we are also working within some coalition programs that we have currently to assist the men," Butcher said.
Those programs include Iraqi Business Industrial Zones, which help set up Iraqi small businesses on coalition installations, and the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program overseen by government contractor KBR, which currently employs 60,000 Iraqis.
"One of the goals is to get more Iraqis hired into that program," Butcher said. "KBR is working through us in order to get some Sons of Iraq into these programs."
Coalition and government authorities also are enlisting the aid of "employment assistant managers" -- local, well-connected individuals who work with the sheiks and in the local industries and can help place Sons of Iraq in long-term positions.
Sons of Iraq in rural areas have a variety of options available to help them build an agricultural base if they so choose, Butcher said. These programs include microgrants to start a business and purchase work materials, like tractors and seed. A U.S. Agency for International Development economic growth program called "Tijara" -- Arabic for trade -- offers small-business programs and agricultural training. "If that's a route that the [Sons of Iraq member] wants to go, we can use that as a training solution," Butcher said.
Because many government ministries require employees to hold a primary school certificate, many of the Sons of Iraq may need some type of literacy training or education.
"We've helped establish a lot of vocational technical centers, and we want to work through these centers and a lot of the educational programs they have to get these guys skilled and trained in trades ... like plumbing, masonry, welding, generator repair and heating, ventilation and air conditioning," Butcher said. "If they don't have the necessary skill sets, then that would be the doorway into that type of ministry position."
Literacy education also is a priority, with the Sons of Iraq benefiting from a national literacy training program recently announced by Maliki. Last summer, a pilot program in Kirkuk province's Hawijah district provided 486 Sons of Iraq with the equivalent of a primary school certificate.
"We learned a lot from that program, and we can use it to help set up similar programs here in Baghdad and elsewhere," Butcher said.
Coalition authorities attribute the momentum of these programs to the enthusiasm of the Iraqi government. "They understand the significance of what the [Sons of Iraq] have done for the country, and what they've done to create a peaceful security environment," Butcher said.
"We are very impressed with the Iraqi government's attention to the Sons of Iraq," he continued. "They have the ball and they're running with it."
(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)