BAGHDAD -- A great number of young men in Iraq are risking their lives just to apply for admission into the Iraqi Army.
So many eligible recruits have applied, that the Ministry of Defense has accommodated by opening provisional sites for Basic Combat Training and pulled personnel from across Iraq to train the surge of recruits.
At the Besmaya Combat Training Center, the Bomb Disposal School played host to a Basic Combat Training in October, and coordinated with BCTC leadership for resources to facilitate the training.
"Instead of turning recruits away, MoD brought them here to be trained," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rodriguez-Barajas, the Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission-Army senior enlisted advisor to the BDS.
This was all coordinated by the Iraqi Army, independent of American support, Rodriguez-Barajas said. The Basic Combat Training course here is a one-time thing, to facilitate the large number of recruits. The Besmaya course consists of 375 jundis, all engineers.
After basic training they will move on to vocational-related training at Engineer School before they take their places in their assigned units within Iraq's Army.
Iraqi Army recruits endure a standard eight-week basic training course that includes basic soldiering skills, weapons marksmanship and individual tactics. The jundis are issued AK-47s and uniforms. Among other military skills, they work on physical training, study army values, practice first aid, pull guard shifts, and how to march. They are led by a noncommissioned officer who calls cadence and makes on-the-spot corrections to those out of step.
"Drill and ceremony is the first step in establishing discipline," said Rodriguez-Barajas, a former drill sergeant, and native of Moorpark, Calif.
We prepare them for further training and their military careers, said Iraqi Army 2nd Lt. Amer Natiq Raheem, a drill instructor and officer for the Basic Combat Training course.
"We turn them from civilian into military personnel," Amer said. "Before they used to do whatever they wanted, but now they have to be ready for training on-time in a certain uniform. They have to be engaged, they need to know how to salute, how to talk."
We train the Soldier according to the training we received at the military academy, Amer said, adding that he is more than just an officer to the jundis in training.
"I'm like a brother, like a friend, a security guy, a medic," Amer said. "Every time something happens, they knock on my door, but it's no problem.
"Half of my personality goes into that platoon, just like DNA," Amer said. "I have to give them my knowledge, because these guys will become noncommissioned officers and sergeants major."
Editor's note: Menegay is a member of the Ohio Army National Guard's 196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment attached to the U.S. Forces-Iraq Deputy Commanding General for Advising and Training Public Affairs Office.