ICO's Train with U.S. Military Guidance
Working closely with advisors from the U.S. Department of Justice, the 310th Military Police Battalion, Uniondale, N.Y., is training Iraqi Correctional Officers (ICOs) to work in detention facilities, at Camp Bucca, Iraq.
The 310th uses a systematic training process that operates in a military-style. It begins with new Iraqi recruits going through a form of basic training. Similar to U.S. Soldiers, ICOs wear fatigues and are trained on a wide variety of subjects from defensive tactics to professionalism and integrity.
Sgt. 1st Class Floyd T. Prather, non-commissioned officer in charge of the Iraqi Correctional Officer Training Academy (ICOTA), acknowledges that trainees are still civilians. He explained that some military standards such as physical training (PT) and drill and ceremony (D&C) are shown as examples, but not required.
"So far, they seem to really like everything we've shown them and follow our examples" said Prather. "They have set their own PT regiment, and they enjoy practicing D&C to look professional during ceremonies," he added.
Soldiers and ICOs working hand-in-hand is part of a training continuum that will extend throughout ICOs careers, as long as the Army is here, said Sgt. Gerard A. Sweet, ICOTA staff member. "If there's a U.S. Soldier checking IDs in the TIF, there's an ICO standing right beside him performing the same job," said Sweet. He added that this not only builds rapport between ICOs and Soldiers, but helps to create a steady routine.
As the training continues, ICOs receive on-the-job training. It is similar to the advanced individual training given to Soldiers after completing basic training. On-the-job training is specific to real-life scenarios the correctional officers will encounter while performing their duties.
The training covers various tasks to include conducting head counts, controlling disturbances and various methods of enforcement. "After completing the course and doing the job they were trained to do, ICOs continue to receive OJT [on-the-job training] updates to keep their minds fresh," said Sweet.
Once ICOs advance to working in compounds, some of them are selected for leadership roles. "To make this authoritative transition flow smoothly, ICOs who are noticed for their hard work and leadership abilities are recommended to the warden to become sergeants," said Sweet.
After the initial selection, ICOs who are accepted by the warden and want to become sergeants take a four-week non-commissioned officer training course. The course focuses on leadership skills, and teaches them to become subject matter experts in daily duties performed by the correctional officers.
In addition to having sergeants helping to lead the way within each section, officers are needed to resolve issues and complaints that affect work performance, said Prather. "The most responsive sergeants continue to advance through the ranks, as they take a two-week course to become lieutenants," said Prather.
"As ICOs grow into their positions, they begin working with less guidance from Soldiers, to prepare for when the Army hands the operation over to the Iraqi Government," said Sweet. To ensure all ICOTA positions can eventually be filled by Iraqis, lieutenants, who have grasped a full understanding of TIF operations, can excel to become course instructors, Sweet added.
A senior Iraqi instructor at Camp Bucca, who completed each leadership course to reach his current status, said he is very happy with the direction TIF operations are moving. "With Iraqi instructors teaching courses, things move faster without the need for translators," the instructor added.
Nevertheless, translators are still a key part of this mission, as they keep communications open between Soldiers and ICOs. Furthermore, translators help Soldiers monitor the classes, so they are able to ensure lesson plans are being followed satisfactorily.
With training well on its way, ICOs are beginning to operate within the compounds, which gives a small scale view into how things will operate when they take the helm, said Prather. "Everything seems to be running smoothly, and it's just a matter of getting more recruits and instructors before they can take control," said Prather.
Prather added that he feels the military guidance, given to and received by ICOs, gives him full confidence that ICOTA and TIF operations will continue to succeed after the Army's time here is complete.
Source: Multi-National Force-Iraq
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