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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Iraqi recruits head to “Boot Camp”

ISKANDARIYAH — Shiite and Sunni Muslims came from far and wide Sept. 2 to begin working together for the greater good of their country.

Sparked by a successful recruiting campaign, these Iraqis crossed over their sectarian boundaries and started their journey toward becoming the newest members of the Iraqi Army.

Congregating at the compound of 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 8th Iraqi Army Division, located adjacent to Forward Operating Base Iskandariyah, home of 1st Battalion, 501st Airborne, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, these new recruits arrived by the truck load to be processed and transported to their basic training.

“The recruiting drive started on Aug. 12 and lasted through the 16th,” said Capt. Douglas Mulvaney, a member of Military Transitional Team 248. “In all, the drive yielded 1,500 Iraqis willing to join the Iraqi army.”

For many of the recruits, the fact that they are able just to have a chance to do something to help their country is reward enough. But for some, this opportunity means so much more.

“I am just glad that I have a chance to come here and be given the opportunity to show everyone that we want to change and make a better way of life,” said Ali Raghib, one of the recruits out of Jurf as Sakhr. “In my neighborhood, I see that things are getting better and I want to be part of the change in the right direction.”

Getting from their homes to Iskandariyah was the biggest challenge for most of the recruits because of the threat of sectarian violence.

“The Iraqi Army has given these people an opportunity to make something better for themselves and their friends and neighbors,” Mulvaney said. “It has erased the danger of traveling to and from different areas, which would have previously discouraged any activity like joining the Iraqi Army.”

The Iraqi Army transportation system took recruits from the compound to their basic training location.

“Seeing how they arranged for the recruits to get here safely is a true testament that the Iraqi Army system structure really works,” Mulvaney said.

For recruits, what awaits them is a rigorous 45-day training program where they will learn basic soldiering skills, rank structure and general military knowledge. Following basic training, the new soldiers will be assigned to different battalions and then go through a 30-day skill screening process to determine their strengths and be placed in a position equivalent to their skills.

“I am excited about the training we are about to receive,” said Hussein Resan Thaif, a native of Mussaiyaib. “I will do everything I can to serve my country and help my family to the best of my ability.”

In a country that has a high rate of unemployment, the recruiting drive for many is just what the doctor ordered.

“One of the biggest successes for this drive is that 1,500 people are going to be back to work,” Mulvaney said. “This eliminates the numbers of people who may turn to militia for money because it gives them another option versus killing for sectarian reasons.”

The recruitment drive was a joint effort between Military Transitional Team 248 and 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 8th Iraqi Army Division. After months of planning and preparation, the vision has come full circle.

“Having been there side-by-side from the beginning and seeing these Iraqis arrive in swarms gives our Military Transitional Team and the Iraqi Army a great sense of accomplishment,” Mulvaney said. “Seeing all of our hard work pay off tells us we have done a small part to help each other make this country a safer place to live.”

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