CAMP ELLIS, Iraq -- In an unprecedented move by local leaders in the town of Barwanah, a village of 20,000 citizens in the Anbar Province of Iraq, the largest number of Iraqi Police recruits ever recruited from the area were processed in a recruit screening this week.
In an area where virtually no Iraqi Police existed before, 60-plus volunteers were rounded up by tribal sheiks to serve as the security force for the village and surrounding area.
According to Capt. Lance Davis, company commander for Fox Co., 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, the success of the IP recruiting screening is the culmination of ongoing security operations being spearheaded by Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment and Fox 2/3.
Because of the secure environment the Marines provided for the Iraqi citizens, tribal sheiks realized now was the time to start their own security force if the city was going to move forward and become a more stabilized environment, explained Davis, a native of Yosemite National Park, Calif.
Davis said many of the tribal sheiks had decided enough was enough. With many of the local workers such as teachers and electricians getting paid but not working, something had to be done to end these problems; the first step was to start a security force.
“The one sheik who made the most difference, his attitude seemed to be one of ‘I’ve had enough’. [The sheik said] ‘we need to get all the teachers together who aren’t going to work and are still getting paid, the electricians who aren’t doing anything about the electricity that keeps going out in this town. We need to make them do their jobs. If they don’t, we need to fire them,’” said Davis.
“’But what comes before all of this is security,’ (the sheik said). He saw this as an imperative first step we needed to take. He’d just had enough,” said Davis.
Capt. Matthew Ryan, assistant operations officer for BLT 2/4, explained that 76 potential recruits were expected, but 17 were identified as possible leaders for the Barwanah Police and were left behind to receive additional training.
Two earlier attempts by Marines to recruit IPs only yielded one recruit each, so the success of this last screening came as a great surprise to him and many of the Marines involved.
“We expected 76, which is what we got. Sixty of those went to the academy and the other 17 were identified as possible leadership in the Barwanah IP force and were therefore left behind to later be sent to an officer training academy,” said Ryan, a North Attleboro, Mass., native.
This is a very significant event, said Ryan. One of the original missions assigned to BLT 2/4 was to set the conditions for the introduction of Iraqi Security Forces in the Haditha Triad area, specifically Barwanah.
"That’s what we’ve done. The conditions we set by providing security, in conjunction with tribal leadership deciding it was time to provide their own security all led to this successful drive,” said Ryan.
He gives much of the credit to the tribal sheiks and their leadership for the successful recruit screening. Ryan said the sheiks were committed to forming a police force for their town and made good on their promise to provide the necessary men for the job.
The recruits themselves seemed to have a positive and motivated attitude about their new jobs, said Ryan. Talking to many of them, they said it was time to provide their own security and stability for their town.
The recruits currently attending the police academy will be trained in basic police work. After the academy, the recruits will be expected to maintain a security presence by manning checkpoints and working with Coalition Forces in the area.
An important aspect of the IP force working in Barwanah is simply their presence alone. Seeing their own friends and family working in the area, Davis hopes for a stronger support for the policemen.
“Just by their presence there, people who see (these recruits), whom they’ve known for decades, picking up a weapon and wearing a blue uniform (will know) he’s that committed (to his village). So the town will rally all that much more and be more inclined to report insurgent activity,” said Davis.
BLT 2/4 is currently deployed to the Al Anbar province of Iraq as part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and has been operating here since late November. Co. F., 2nd Bn, 3rd Marines is currently working in conjunction with BLT 2/4 and has been deployed to the area since September 2006.