News: Security Forces Airmen mentor Iraqi police officers
Story by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Kapinos
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Security Forces Airmen, skilled in the fields of police work and defense, met with and mentored their Iraqi counterparts during a meeting at a local police station here Nov. 15 as part of an on-going training program and in anticipation of upcoming elections.
The Airmen work as part of a police training team and are assigned to the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Detachment 2, Camp Striker, Iraq.
Begun by the Army several years ago, the Air Force now assists in the effort, which has succeeded in refining the skills and abilities to a point where many of the stations now operate on their own with minimal supervision by the U.S. military.
"When we began working with the Iraqis 10 months ago, we were working with individuals who had basic skills," said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Young, a squad leader assigned to the 732nd ESFS. "Now we are able to put those finishing touches on their training which allows them to be fairly self-sustaining.
Meeting with station chiefs and commanders on a regular basis enhances the IP's capabilities and abilities, and furthers the process of having Iraqi forces take over the security of the streets, instead of coalition forces.
"This mission is one we call 'key leader engagement' and consists of meeting with senior police officials to discuss issues such as training programs, security of the compound and investigations," said Young. "We have to cover everything from paperwork to force protection, especially with elections right around the corner. Our goal is to have them take the lead on securing polling places for the Iraqis to vote, instead of us being responsible for it."
The Airmen work as part of a Police Training Team and are broken up into squads, which are then geared to specific parts of the training program. Young's primary mission is meeting with the local police commanders and chiefs to determine what training is needed among the officers, evaluating the station's capabilities and then following up with the leaders at a later date.
"For example, a station chief may say to me that five of his officers need training on vehicle searches so they can be put at a particular checkpoint," said Young. "I can then set up the training through one of the other squads. After the training is complete, I will then follow up with the chief to see if that was the training he needed or if it wasn't how it can be improved."
Staff Sergeant Cesar Matos, assigned to Young's squad, has seen the Iraqi police grow as well, especially when they are able to take the information and skills learned at one station and incorporate it into another, something often seen in American districts.
"It truly helps their ability to work together as one cohesive team, instead of individual stations," said Matos. "They can disseminate information and training more effectively, ensuring all of the stations are 'on the same page'."
According to Young, it is the willingness of the police commanders, and even the recruits, to learn and become a team, which has been the key to their success. Matos agrees, stating that many of the Iraqi police officers "truly want to serve their country and their people."
"It's a good thing in our opinion," said Young. "Between our training and their ability to come together as a team, we have almost worked ourselves out of a job. And that's how it should be."