RUTBAH, Iraq -- “There’s been a lot of trouble in the city, and myself and a lot of other men here want to keep the area safe.”
So says an Iraqi man in Rutbah, Iraq who lined up with hundreds of other Iraqis to offer their services as Iraqi Policemen in order to make their city a safer place to live.
Since the arrival of the 15th MEU (SOC) in western Al Anbar in November, one of the key missions has been to create the conditions in the city of Rutbah that would allow for the establishment of an Iraqi Police force.
With that goal in mind, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) established positions inside of Rutbah in January and worked to mobilize the populace to take back control of their city from the insurgent influence that has been so prevalent since the fall of the regime in 2003. With the creation of a secure environment, the Iraqi Police recruiting effort got off to a fast start.
Over the past month, the 15th MEU( SOC) has taken every opportunity to engage the citizens in order to create an interest in joining the Rutbah Police. The recruiting effort was kicked off on February 17th with formal announcements transmitted via trucks carrying loud speakers and driven throughout the city’s many neighborhoods. In the four days following, hundreds of Rutbah citizens showed up to volunteer for the Rutbah Police Department.
According to Capt. Daniel W. Micklis, commanding officer, Police Transition Team 21 (PTT 21) in order to be eligible to become Iraqi Police, the volunteers were put through a screening process to test their mental and physical abilities.
“There are a number of steps we go through when [volunteers] go through the recruiting process,” Micklis said.
First, volunteers must pass a written test to show literacy to be able to write reports and document work.
Volunteers meet with civilian liaison officers to determine aptitude. “We have international police liaison officers who speak with the candidates to learn a little bit about them,” said Micklis, “and see if they have the skills and potential to be an Iraqi Policeman.”
The interview is followed by a thorough medical screening to check height, weight, eyesight, and blood pressure to ensure the volunteer is physically healthy.
After that, Marines run a background check to ensure the volunteer has no affiliation with insurgent groups or any criminal history. Last, the volunteer is given a basic test to gauge their ability to perform the physical duties of an Iraqi Policeman.
“They do a physical fitness test, in which they go through and conduct push-ups, sit-ups, and a run portion,” Micklis said.
Though the Marine recruiting process is new to Rutbah, the city leadership’s approval of the effort and the response from eager volunteers in the city is a sign of progress, according to Micklis.
“The local leadership is very supportive of having [Iraqi Police] being stood up within Rutbah, especially since they want to see local members of their community partake in the security [in Rutbah],” Micklis said, “to be involved in the success of clamping down on the insurgency and making Rutbah a peaceful place to live.”
Micklis says the overwhelming interest in being Iraqi Police among the people in Rutbah is unusual, given the size of Rutbah in relation to larger cities in Iraq where similar recruiting efforts have taken place.
“Considering the size of the city, I’m surprised at the large number of recruits that we’ve had that have come forward and asked to be [Iraqi Police],” Micklis said.
David L. Hochman, an International Police Liaison Officer is a former Marine Gunnery Sergeant and veteran police officer from Smithfield, N.C who was on hand to lend a hand to the recruit screening. “Whenever you bring something like a police station in, that’s jobs for the community. They have a genuine desire to have a safe community,” said Hochman.
“A lot of (the volunteers) want to be Iraqi Police because it’s a prestigious job, just like in any other community,” said Hochman, “they’re going to be the representatives of their community for order and peacefulness through the community.”
Micklis agrees. “Normally Iraqi Police is a very sought after job in the Iraqi populace. It’s a chance to serve their country, it’s a good steady job, and a lot of people are interested in it.”
At the end of the recruiting effort, 15th MEU (SOC) screened, processed, and signed up over one hundred men in Rutbah to join the Iraqi Police force, three times the amount of volunteers required to fill open seats in the Iraqi Police Academy. The extra recruits will be kept on file for future classes at the Academy.
Micklis believes an Iraqi Police Force in Rutbah will be the new face of safety in the city and will build on the foundations of security laid by the 15th MEU (SOC), furthering the overall goal of operating forces in Iraq.
“They’ll be able to capitalize on the success that the 15th MEU has had out here and contribute to the overall success of the mission.”