BAGHDAD - There was a large celebration March 5 at the Adl Sports Center in Kadamiyah, where about 150 Iraqi students graduated from a heavy equipment operator course that began Dec. 4.

These students are the first to graduate from the heavy equipment operator course, said the contracting officer representative for the project, 1st Lt. Justin Casey, assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.

"They learned to operate dump trucks, street sweepers, bulldozers and sewage trucks," said Casey.

The project provides 18 vehicles per 48 Iraqi students then turns the vehicles over to the beladiya which is like a neighborhood, continued Casey, whose job involves ensuring that the contracts given to the Iraqis are fulfilled.

The U.S. military supports Iraqi contractors to provide skills through classes to unemployed Iraqis. Casey said he travels to the training sites to make sure the training is in line with the contracts.

There are six training locations throughout Baghdad with two phases of the training: theoretical and practical. The first phase is classroom instruction, where students learn about basic operations and maintenance of the vehicles. The second phase consists of hands-on training with driving and operating the machinery, said Casey.

"We had students that started the class and didn't even know how to drive," said Ali Kurji Hassan, an instructor for the course and mechanical engineer from Baghdad. "Now they can drive and maintain the vehicles. They are very excited!"

Most of the students were previously unemployed but were eager to work.

"It's a big thing for students that have never had an education," said Hassan. Not only were the students receiving an education, but they were also paid a stipend for attending classes. The stipend was $10 a day, up to $300 a month if they attended class every day, but the rewards were more than monetary.

"In the long-term it's going to benefit the community," said Casey. "Here they were given a training opportunity so they are an asset to the people of Iraq."

The partnership between the Coalition force and Iraq has grown tremendously and the communities are reaping the rewards of these accomplishments.

"We are enthusiastic to have this partnership with the U.S.," said Maj. Hadi Salih, the supervisor of training in Adl. "These classes provide the students with skills to be more useful to the community. The training was smooth and they were content to be doing it, so it didn't feel like hard work."

The students will reap the rewards of the training in the future, but at the graduation everyone was celebrating.

"The students are very excited, they're in there dancing," said Casey. "They're excited to accomplish something."

Yet, more importantly, Casey added, "They can see that Iraq is developing." And these new graduates will help develop it.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16