ZAIDON, Iraq --
Sixty-eight members of the Sons of Iraq, a citizen watch group trained in protecting the community here, took the next step in becoming law enforcement officers on Aug. 12.
Distinguished leaders of the greater al Nu’Amyiah area and Marines from Camp Fallujah participated in a graduation ceremony to celebrate the accomplishments of the first class of SOI to complete an academy that will prepare them to make the transition to Iraqi Police.
“There are many great things a man can do with his life, but I believe the greatest is to protect other people,” said Col. George Bristol, commanding officer, First Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group. “The emblem over your heart represents what you now stand for. Each one of you should be proud, as I am proud of you.” Bristol took the time to individually congratulate each graduate.
Sheikh Abd Al-Hamid Hussein from the Jumayli tribe and other local leaders in attendance acknowledged the important role these graduates have as the region grows toward self governance. “There is now a great responsibility upon your shoulders to uphold the laws and protect the good people of [the greater al Nu’Amyiah area].” he said.
“Today is the result of a year of work for us,” said Capt. Ruth Wilson, company commander, Guardian Company, I MHG. “All the work-ups, all the sweat, all the patrols, everything went into making this day possible, and now it’s up to them to make it successful. All we can do is show them how.”
“This is how all future academies should be run,” said IP Lt. Col. Da’wud Ahmed Sliman who oversaw the training. “The first days especially were difficult, but you made great improvements with each day and now you stand before us having completed something worthwhile.” He said to the class. “We could have never achieved this without the Marine instructors and your hard work.”
The Marine instructors were hand picked from Guardian Company as part of a long term plan to improve security in the region.
“It was really rewarding to see all that effort pay off today.” Wilson said. “Without security, nothing else is possible.”
In just six days the students were exposed to a challenging curriculum that ranged from the basics of law and how to conduct a legal search to the benefits of community policing.
“In six days we gave them training that should be done over a period of weeks or months,” said Sgt. Horton Brisco, Chief Instructor. “They are eager to learn and retain an amazing amount of information."
The academy was also physically demanding as students were exposed to the intensity of Marine Corps physical training between periods of classroom instruction. The squads showed great enthusiasm as they competed, but then took time to recognize the abilities and motivation of each other. The Marines emphasized to the SOI how much stronger they are when they stand as a group, and after one event two squads lined up to congratulate each other just like an American baseball team.
Hussein recognized the training as a landmark in the turnover of security from Coalition forces to Iraqi authority. “I don’t not have words for how grateful I am for what you have done here.” He said to the Marines.