BAGHDAD - As part of the effort to increase the police force across the Iraqi capital, a police recruitment drive was held in the Karkh security district Nov. 15 thru 18.

The four-day event, which drew thousands of recruits, was conducted in two locations in central Baghdad. The recruiting station was set up in Sadimiyah for the first day, and then moved to the Olympic stadium complex in Salhiyah for the final three days.

"Part of the Baghdad (Iraqi Police) expansion program is to hire 12,000 IPs across all of Baghdad, and every district is running its own recruiting drives," Maj. Kurt Ritterpusch, the provost marshal officer for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, explained. "In Karkh, the goal is 415, but we're actually allowed to recruit up to 30 percent more than that, so about 540."

According to Capt. Keith Miller the assistant operations officer for 4th Squadron, 2nd Striker Cavalry Regiment, which is attached to the 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div., whose unit was on hand to assist and provide security at the event, there was expected to be over 1,000 applicants during the recruiting drive, and he credited the large turnout in part to a major advertising campaign conducted over the past several weeks that included meetings with local leaders and Soldiers passing out handbills and applications while out on patrol.

"Every time we go out on patrol, we talk to individuals and tell them this is coming up, and a lot of them are very receptive," the Sumner, Wash., native said.

Those hoping to become police officers had to be male and between the ages of 18 and 35. After they were checked in and cleared as a potential applicant, they were moved through a series of stations beginning with one that tested them for basic literacy.

"As part of the recruiting drive they're doing testing, and they're putting a balanced and fair approach into the IP recruiting to remove anything that would otherwise influence the recruiting," Ritterpusch, who calls Harker Heights, Texas home, said. "Basic literacy is to be able to read to a paragraph out loud. The paragraphs are taken from the newspaper, which is at about a sixth-grade level. So they have to be able to read at about a sixth-grade level, and they have to be able to write a sentence that is given to them orally."

Illiteracy proved to be the number-one disqualifier for most of the applicants.

"Unfortunately a lot of these guys can't read or write, so they weren't able to be used for the IPs although they really wanted to be part of the police force," Miller said.

Applicants who were able to demonstrate a sufficient reading level were then moved through a health assessment station, where both U.S. and Iraqi medical personnel checked them out for any disqualifying conditions, such as an irregular heartbeat, before they moved outside to take a physical fitness test.

They were tested on the number of pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups they could perform, as well as timed during a 200-meter run.

"The physical fitness standards are not the same as the U.S. military standards, but they're enough to demonstrate that they're in good shape," Ritterpusch explained. "60 points is the maximum for the test, and there's no extended skill. It's two points per repetition for push-ups and sit-ups, and four for pull-ups.'

'Anything below 30 would disqualify them, but everyone who has passed the physical has passed the physical fitness test."

Ritterpusch said that all of the standards were put in place by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and we're being used across Baghdad.

Potential recruits who were able to meet all of these requirements then moved on to the final step of the day, an interview with the police force's district commander.

"When they walk up, he looks at their appearance, their confidence, if they look like an IP, and if they carry themselves in such a manner that they're able to have some type of authority," Miller said. "From that point, he (evaluates) the pile, and from there it goes to a committee where local leaders in the Karkh security district will sit down with Coalition Forces and IP leaders and look at these different applications and then forward them to the MOI."

According to Ritterpusch, those chosen by the MOI will then be scheduled to attend the police academy in Baghdad beginning in mid-January. He said that training at the academy lasts for five and a half weeks, and the new police officers will be put right to work as soon as they graduate from the academy.

Miller added that those applicants who are not chosen for the January class may be chosen for a seat in a later class.

"The people who don't make it into the academy the first time around, they're held on file so they can go to the next one and this will basically increase the force as time goes on," he said. "We've really had a lot of interest with this recruitment drive and the Iraqis have come out and surprised me quite a bit. I believe we're going to get some good Iraqi police out there."