AL ASAD, Iraq -- The last class of Iraqi police officers graduated Aug. 24 from the Iraqi training academy here. The almost 200 policemen will soon be on their way to cities throughout Iraq to contribute in the effort of ensuring the security of this land.
The Marines, civilian international police officer training cadre and other staff who assist with the training, and also trained border patrolmen, will be sent to other posts to continue their work.
It was just another typical day here in the Al Anbar province. A steady breeze was blowing from the northwest and by 9 a.m. the temperature was beginning its steady climb as the mass formation of students began their short march for their outdoor graduation. The four platoon formation came to a halt around the U.S. and Iraqi flags.
The director of the academy, Chief Warrant Officer Scott Reinhardt, began the ceremony recognizing and giving thanks to the international police training cadre and the Marine instructors who lead the training regimen. He then introduced the guest speaker, Col. Kent W. Bradford, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing’s division liaison officer.
Bradford, who has been in the Marine Corps for more than 25 years and was himself a police officer, began by telling the men that he was honored to be there with the graduates. “You are brave men who are about to go out to do a difficult job,” he said.
Bradford went on to describe the diversity among the men, some young, some older, some short and some tall some thin and some round. While no two of them looked alike there was one thing they all shared, according to Bradford. “I see passion, dedication … fire in the eyes of you men to do a great service in Iraq.
“The greatest thing we can give Iraq is security.” Bradford went on to recount some of the recent incidents of violence in Iraq. He talked of insurgent attacks on fuel and water pipelines, and about schools being used by insurgents to launch attacks.
“Who is it,” asked Bradford, “that bears the greatest burden of these insurgent attacks? It is the people of Iraq. What good are new pipelines that bring new jobs, what good are new schools without the security necessary to maintain them?”
He went on to tell them that Americans, their allies, are not the answer for the long term security of Iraq. “You fine gentlemen are the answer to security,” said Bradford. “With you we can open new schools and new pipelines which mean new jobs. You must be the noble, honorable policemen providing security.
“Some of your own countrymen may hate you because of the course you have chosen. You will be required to deal with the injustice honorably.”
Bradford told the men that they will have to provide professional justice and sustain the peace in Iraq. “It is men like you who will ultimately defeat men like [Abu Musab al-Zarqawi].”
The former policeman concluded his remarks by offering a blessing over the men. “As God blessed a hero of ancient times, ‘Be strong and courageous, fear nothing, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’”
After Bradford finished, a couple graduates were recognized for their outstanding efforts during the course of instruction after which the officers reaffirmed their commitment as the class commander administered the oath to the graduates.
Reinhardt concluded with a few words to the men. “You all have a hard, tough road ahead. I and some of the Marines here are police officers back home. I know you all have a difficult job ahead. Practice what you have learned. Work closely with the Marines and police officers already in place where you go. We look forward to working with you all again.”
The course, which consisted of advanced classroom instruction, pistol and rifle range training and practical exercises, was designed to hone the student’s skills. Each new Iraqi police officer attends this course after they have completed the eight-week basic course.
The police academy relocated here from Ramadi in December of last year. Since February, about the time II Marine Expeditionary Force began their mission in the region, the academy has graduated seven classes, preparing about 800 Iraqis to assume the role of law enforcement officers. Additionally, 200 Iraqi border enforcement officers have graduated.
The graduates will be on the front lines in the ongoing fight for a free and secure Iraq. They and thousands like them are the men who must forge a bright future for the people of Iraq.