LASHKAH GAR, Afghanistan — Afghan national police recruits moved into the final phase of their eight-week training cycle, Jan. 11, at the Interim Helmand Police Training Center, demonstrating the skills they have acquired over the past six weeks.
The recruits are the first iteration to train at the facility, stood up in December to accommodate the recruitment push for 160,000 policemen by the end of 2010.
Throughout the course, the recruits train on policing skills such as weapons handling, first aid, vehicle searches, and counter-improvised explosive device training, said Capt. Ed Mackie, the chief instructor at the training center and member of the Household Cavalry Regiment.
The instructors, comprised of Afghan policemen and British troops, also provide a literacy course and introduce the recruits to the Afghan constitution.
Mackie, a Monmouth, South Wales, native, said he could see the recruits developing an enthusiasm for the training.
In the beginning, they couldn't see where the training fit into the bigger picture. Now, we have seen them practicing drills and doing physical training on their own time, he said.
The IHPTC borrows a curriculum for police training from similar centers in Kandahar and Kabul. This shared syllabus creates a standard for the entire country, introducing a new level of professionalism to the police force in addition to regular pay and provided uniforms.
A professionalism which encouraged one recruit to enroll.
I was not a professional before I joined — before I could protect others, I needed to be able to protect myself, said the recruit, Dawood Gul Zaman.
Our professionalism is not only the most important factor in defeating the insurgents, it's a source of honor, Zaman said.
The arrival of the IHPTC increases the number of these professionally trained policemen in the Helmand province. Each cycle trains 150 recruits, and as development on the facility continues, the center will reach a capacity of three concurrent cycles by March 2010, totaling 450 recruits at any one time and up to 2,550 per year.
The expansion of the facility will include infrastructural developments as well. A 100-meter firing range is currently under construction and plans for a counter-IED course are on the horizon. A more permanent facility, consisting of concrete buildings, is the long-range goal.
While the Interim Helmand Police Training Center continues to grow around them, the instructors and students are focused on finishing this inaugural training cycle.
Guardsmen Michael Harrison, an instructor at the training center, said the recruits' progress was exceptional, and he has ample reason for his satisfaction with both his work and theirs.
"Eventually, I'll be going back out into the field, and I'll get to see them put their skills into practice. I'll be fighting right beside them," said Harrison, a member of the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guard from Doncaster, South Yorkshire.
And his recruit, Khan Bashar Dost, looks forward to it.
"I came here because I want to be a good police officer and defend Afghanistan. It is my job to protect the people and maintain security all over the country," said Dost.