By Spc. Alexis Harrison, 2nd BCT,1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsOctober 29, 2007
NUMANIYAH, Iraq - When the Iraqi soccer team claimed the Asian Cup Championship earlier this year, the entire country rejoiced in their victory. It served as a small symbol of victory that encompassed all sects of people and brought them together, if only for a moment.
During their month-long rotation through the National Police Academy, the policemen from the 5th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police Division, celebrated a similar victory after holding a small soccer tournament Oct.18 to 21.
Policemen from all three battalions and the headquarters element of the brigade selected the best volunteers to serve as players on their teams. They squared off in a single-elimination tournament for the highly-coveted commander's cup and bragging rights that would hopefully give them motivation as they go into the third week of training.
So far, the policemen have completed about two-thirds of their training at the academy. The soccer tournament was a break from the classroom instruction and the heart-pounding exercises they've been performing.
"This was just a great way for the guys to come out here and blow off some steam," said Secaucus, N.J., native Staff Sgt. Josh Hammerstone. "This is the only time in their lives that they can have fun like this. Every day in Baghdad is life or death."
The soccer tournament was the idea of the brigade commander. He wanted his policemen to have a little break from the high-stress training and also build a better team in the process.
During the championship game between the 1st and 2nd Battalion teams, the action started early when the 1st Battalion scored early in the first half. After a small celebration from their cheering section, the game resumed. The early score by the 1st Battalion proved to be the game-winner with the final score 1-0.
After the tournament, the training went back to its normal schedule. The policemen still have about two weeks to go until their final training exercise - which encompasses all the training they've had during their stay here and then a graduation ceremony.
The soccer tournament wasn't the only thing policemen have to compete for. At the end of the rotation there will be awards for best-overall policeman, best company and best barracks.
So far, they have received instruction on crime scene analysis, cordon operations, checkpoint operations and much more during their stay for what will be the last rotation of semi-trained policemen at the academy.
Soon the academy will turn to training fresh recruits, those new to paramilitary operations and without any experience on the streets whatsoever.
While the 1st Battalion celebrated, there wasn't a sad face in the 2nd Battalion crowd to be seen. They seemed to know that although they'd lost the soccer game, the real fight needing to be won was on the streets of their capital.
"The football was fun," said one policeman. "But we have to go back to Baghdad and go back to work soon. We'll celebrate victory when our streets are truly safe."