Kirkuk IP: A Binding Brotherhood in Training
December 28, 2007
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq (Army News Service, Dec. 28, 2007) - "Upon entering our academy...you are no longer Turkman, Arab, Christian, Kurd...you are an Iraqi," Col. Samir Murshed Khushid, commandant of the Kirkuk Police Academy and former Peshmerga soldier, said. He tells his recruits they are here to serve their fellow citizen, to "protect them, ethnicity does not matter."
That sentiment is built into the screening process. MoI standards are based on the ethnic make-up of a particular province. "The three major ethnic groups here are Arab, Kurd, and Turkman. MoI has set the following percentages for us to hire: Arab, 29 percent; Kurd, 40 percent; and Turkman, 29 percent," Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Aker of 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division's Provincial Police Training Team said. "Don't ask Col. Khushid what religion he or any one of his cadres or recruits are, he would be offended as, 'that is their personal choice,' he would say."
"Everyone in Kirkuk is working together to eliminate the terrorists here," recruit Muhammad Abdul Abas, 22, an Arab said. "We; Arab, Kurd, Turkman, and Christian, are united in this belief and as a team, we work in peace to protect everyone in Kirkuk against those who want to separate us and try to make us fight each other," he said. The team recruit Abas refers to is his brotherhood...one formed with all ethnic groups within each IP platoon. "We will work together to protect our citizens."
Following two hours of calisthenics which consists of marching, running, and various drills all geared toward team-building, the rest of the day is spent rotating from indoor to outdoor classroom instruction on law enforcement procedures, ranging from democratic policing, human rights, hostage survival, basic first aid, to responding to an ambush, Sgt. 1st Class Aker said.
"The courses cover most situations an Iraqi policeman will face during a typical workday here," he said. "The practical exercises are great." Hands-on demonstrations and instruction are also given throughout the day with realistic re-enactments of scenarios ranging from checkpoint security to procedures for the handling of IEDs.
He describes one simulation where an instructor dresses up like an extremist, shovel in hand, scarf wrapped around his head and face, acting suspicious. He digs a hole, places a simulated IED in it, and flees as he hears the IPs coming, because a concerned citizen has notified them. The cadres then explain to the recruits the proper steps to initiate. "They act out the entire procedure with a question and answer period that follows," Sgt. 1st Class Aker said.
These practical exercises are based on real events, according to 1st Lt. Christopher C. Harris, a 1-10th Mountain Division PTT-P. Most of the recruits will deal with at least one of these practical exercises.
"Most of these young Iraqi men are looking for a way to either help support their parents or support families of their own," 1st Lt. Harris said. "They don't have alternative career paths to choose from."
"My father is a retired lieutenant colonel. He was an infantry officer in Saddam's army," said 20-year-old Amer Ahmed, who is of Kurdish and Arab descent and supports a family of six. "I don't have any skills, but this is something I can do because I want to help make Kirkuk a safe place to live."
Others join to be a part of the peace process or to stabilize their own neighborhoods. Whatever their reasons, a common bond is sown. Their 10-week training cultivates this bond, and their full-time employment in Kirkuk law enforcement allows that bond to flourish.
"Arab, Turkman, Kurd, Christian...it doesn't matter. We are all a team here at the Academy. We all want peace and freedom here in Kirkuk. We do this by working and living in harmony with one another," IP recruit Akran Osman, 27, a Turkman said.
Next on the agenda for 300 of the more ambitious recruits: SWAT training. The Emergency Service Unit of the IP force will entail a rigorous selection process which will whittle 300 out of the 1,382 Iraqi strong class, based on performance, test scores, and instructor recommendations.
(Staff Sgt. Margaret C. Nelson serves with the 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)