AL QA’IM, Iraq --
Droves of Iraqi men lined the streets of Ubaydi. The awakening call of roosters could be heard over the murmur of a crowd nearing 400.
A conglomerate of Marines, soldiers, sailors, interpreters and Iraqi Police readied nearby at the local police station to kickoff a two-day Iraqi Police recruiting drive with the hopes of identifying 75 qualified recruits.
The district Police Transition Team, who advise, train and mentor local police, work hand in hand with the Betio Bastards of Task Force 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, and the Iraqi Police to quell the need for additional local forces in the region.
“We are looking at hiring more policemen to the eastern part of Al Qa’im, in order to establish a police station north of the Euphrates River,” said Capt. Gerardo D. Gaje Jr., the district Police Transition Team leader.
In addition to providing sufficient security for the event, the elements of the recruiting team conducted a thorough screening of each applicant that included literacy testing, medical evaluations, administrative processing, security questionnaires and a physical fitness test.
“For a lot of the (recruiting team), it was their first experience with recruiting,” said Gaje. “If they did recruit, it wasn’t to this extent.”
The Police Transition Team separated the massive crowd into groups and began to systematically arrive at the literacy testing station. Interpreters circled the classroom-like setting to help the staff administer the test designed to gauge reading and writing abilities.
When the applicant successfully passed the test, they moved on to be processed with the Biometrics Automated Toolset system, which is the database used in Iraq that identifies individuals through personal information, fingerprints, photographs from various angles and iris scans. A security questionnaire was also required to ensure they have no ties to criminal activity.
The magnitude of the turnout and the unpredictable environment proved to be a tasking challenge for coalition forces.
“A couple of times the power went out, so we had to reconnect our computers,” said Cpl. John Michael Markle, an intelligence analyst with Task Force 3rd Bn., 2nd Marines, who assisted with the BAT system. “Really, the hardest part was the language barrier. We had only one interpreter between three BAT stations.”
Applicants still eligible after the initial stations were then ushered on to a comprehensive medical evaluation. Navy corpsmen took vital signs, height and weight measurements and tested range of motion to determine if they were fit for duty.
“A majority of them that were in the best physical condition were the farmers and fishermen,” said Hospitalman Anthony Eromosece, a Navy corpsman with 3rd Bn., 2nd Marines, and Bronx, N.Y., native. “You can tell they’re hard working men with their bodies intact. I think a lot of (the applicants) should make it.”
The final stage of the screening, overseen by Marines and soldiers, included a physical fitness test that involved pushups, pull-ups, sit-ups and a 100-meter dash. Men, of ages ranging from 18 to their late 40s, took on a competitive mindset to prove their physical prowess. Failure to perform to a specific standard rendered an applicant ineligible for duty.
“There was frustration amongst some of the people that couldn’t pass a test, but that’s expected,” Gaje said. “It’s just the fact that everyone wants a job, and right now, being a policeman is one of the better paying jobs.”
At the conclusion of the recruiting drive, 75 qualified recruits were identified and will attend the Habbaniyah Police Training Center for an 8 to 9-week course before reporting for duty.
At a time when Iraqi Police face considerable challenges, the willingness of the local populace to take on the rigors of the job proves their determination to make a better tomorrow for Iraq.