FORWARD OPERATING BASE GARRY OWEN (Army News Service, Aug. 18, 2009) - In the new "advise and assist" phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, coalition forces are training Iraqi Security Forces to conduct combat operations instead of mounting unilateral combat operations.

Each day Iraqi police officers from Maysan Province progress through, they take another step toward autonomy. In 2005, the Ministry of Interior founded an IP Academy to begin training district, emergency response and federal police in the province.

"Right now the IP Academy is focused on training police that are already employed. The IP never had an initial training program integrated so everyone in the province has a different level of skill," said 2nd Lt. Thomas Gossweiler, a tank platoon leader with Company C, 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment. "The class will give these police officers the foundation to succeed and an opportunity for advancement, an option that wasn't available a year ago."

July 30 marked the second IP graduation the 4th Bn. has been invited to. Even with the language barrier, the proud looks of the nearly 875 graduates were difficult to miss. With the band keeping a marching rhythm similar to U.S. Army bands, the ceremony was rich with Iraqi culture and pride.

But, it wasn't long ago when the course was an eight-week program designed to teach mostly discipline and marching. The current program is four weeks and focuses on tactics and strategy. The class was shortened due to the Iraqi instructors' increased effectiveness.

"They always ask us to show them how the Americans do it. The training is great for both nations," said Sgt. 1st Class Sean O'Connor. The commandant of the Maysan IP Academy had requested protective security detail, crime scene investigation and combat lifesaver training from American units, he added.

Leaders of the 4th Bn., 6th Inf. Regt. are optimistic regarding the future success of the Maysan police force. The mission ahead will not be an easy one, but it is necessary nonetheless, said Lt. Col. Robert L. Menist Jr., the 6th Inf. Regt. commander.

"Now that security rests solely on the Iraqi security forces, it is imperative that we have and maintain a trained, professional and proficient police force," he said. "The IP academy is an instrumental part in making that happen."

(2nd Lt. Frederick F. McAfee III serves with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.)