By Army 2nd Lt. Frederick F. McAfee III
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 13, 2009 - U.S. soldiers who attended a recent graduation of Iraqi police say they are pleased with their improvements and that training them has been mutually beneficial.
"They always ask us to show them how the Americans do it," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean O'Connor, a tank platoon sergeant with the 6th Infantry Regiment's 4th Battalion. "The training is great for both nations."
In the new "advise-and-assist" phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, coalition forces train Iraqi security forces to conduct combat operations -- as opposed to conducting unilateral combat operations themselves. Each day, the training helps Iraqi police in Maysan province take another step toward autonomy.
The Iraqi Police Basic Recruit Training Academy, which opened in Maysan in 2005, is now focused on training police who are already employed. Since the police did not have an initial, integrated training program, the province's police have different skill levels.
The basic recruit training class will give the Iraqi officers "the foundation to succeed and an opportunity for advancement, an option that wasn't available a year ago," said Army 2nd Lt. Thomas Gossweiler, a tank platoon leader with 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment.
The July 30 event marked the second police graduation the 4th Battalion has attended. Even with the language barrier, the proud looks of the nearly 875 graduates in attendance was difficult to miss. With the band keeping a marching rhythm similar to U.S. Army bands, the ceremony was rich with Iraqi culture and pride. Not long ago, the course was an eight-week program designed to teach mostly discipline and marching. The current program is four weeks and focuses on tactics and strategy. The class was shortened due to the Iraqi instructors' increased effectiveness, officials said.
Iraqi Lt. Col. Ghazi, commandant of the academy, has sought training from U.S. Army personnel, including protective-security detail, crime-scene investigation and combat-lifesaver training.
Battalion leaders say they are optimistic about the Maysan police force's future success. The mission ahead will not be an easy one, but it is necessary, they said.
"Now that security rests solely on the Iraqi security forces, it is imperative that we have and maintain a trained, professional and proficient police force," said Army Lt. Col. Robert L. Menist Jr., 4th Battalion commander. "The [Iraqi police] academy is an instrumental part in making that happen."(Army 2nd Lt. Frederick F. McAfee III serves with the 1st Armored Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team.)