BAGHDAD - The Taji Training Center conducted a graduation ceremony for its largest Basic Combat Training class to date during a combined ceremony with the Taji Noncommissioned Officer Academy Nov. 28 at Camp Taji.

The BCT class produced 1,632 Iraqi Army Soldiers and 268 NCOs completed training at the Taji NCO Academy.

For a select group of BCT graduates, their presence at training is a testament to their level of dedication in providing for the defense of a Sovereign Iraq, as some of the graduates survived an Aug. 17 suicide bomb attack on a crowded Iraqi Army Recruiting Center in Baghdad that reportedly killed 59 people.

"It made me feel good that they stuck with it," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Shapiro, Taji Training Center senior advisor with Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Army.

These recruits were determined to enter the Army, said Shapiro, a native of Huntsville, Ala. To have Soldiers willing to endure what they saw, get back in line and continue to sign up to protect their countrymen against terrorism; that's a good sign for Iraq

The 60-day BCT course, modeled by the Ministry of Defense, began Oct. 2 and focused on basic soldiering skills, such as physical fitness, drill and ceremony, weapons marksmanship, first aid, army values, and guard duty.

"This was an MoD initiative to rapidly fill its ranks with much needed replacement Soldiers and the Taji TC was able to adapt to the situation to train a large number of students without U.S. assistance," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Barr, Taji TC senior enlisted advisor with Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Army.

"They were able to take Iraqi civilians with no military experience and in a short amount of time turn them into Iraqi Soldiers, ready to defend their country," said Barr, a native of Hubert Heights, Ohio.