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Airmen recruit Iraqi military


Release Date: 3/31/2004

by Tech. Sgt. John Asselin Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs

3/31/2004 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- Two Air Force recruiters are using their training and skills to recruit a distinct group of people into an organization far different from the U.S. Air Force.

Capt. Pete Ellum and Master Sgt. Greg Elmore are in Iraq recruiting that country's new military.

They are recruiting for the armed forces, border patrol, police force, facilities protection service and other agencies in Iraq, Captain Ellum said.

"Our mission has grown in scope and responsibility, but the lion's share is still recruiting the Iraqi armed forces," he said. "From the time we arrived until we are projected to leave, our goal is to recruit about 25,000 troops into the Iraqi military -- everything from general officers to privates."

The two Airmen are literally recruiting and building the new Iraqi armed forces from scratch. Captain Ellum is the operations flight commander for the 319th Recruiting Squadron in Portsmouth, N.H., and Sergeant Elmore is the command standardization and training program manager at Air Force Recruiting Service here

"We do everything from A to Z -- even pick their jobs and rank," Captain Ellum said. "In just the first few days on the ground, Sergeant Elmore and I selected close to 400 senior (noncommissioned officers) to attend training."

"There are some similarities to recruiting in the (United States)," Sergeant Elmore said.

"We have to make sure we are getting the right ethnic mix [Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shia Arabs, to] ensure we meet our goal . and recruit quality folks, but there really isn't a lot of recruiting in the sense that we call recruiting -- it's more processing," he said.

On an average day, 300 to 1,000 people will show up at the recruiting center to apply, with many waiting in line well before the center opens, Captain Ellum said.

"We recruit between the ages of 18 and 40, and applicants must have at least 22 intact teeth, be literate and in good health," he said. "They fill out an application, get briefed on the process and get medically qualified. If they make it that far, they sit down with a recruiter for an interview to determine rank, etc."

They determine ranks and jobs by considering education, military experience, occupational service, awards, literacy, English-language skills, appearance, attitude, bearing and other factors. In one case, attitude was an important part, Sergeant Elmore said.

"I was standing at the table helping the interpreter process the new recruits onto the bus when an Iraqi came up with no paperwork, and his jacket looked like it had gone through a shredder," he said. "We were nervous about this guy just showing up, so the interpreter asked him where his paperwork was . .

"In broken English, he said it had gotten blown up (in the recruiter center bombing Feb. 11) which was also the reason his jacket was torn up. The interpreter then asked him how he knew to show up today, and he said he didn't, he just came every day since the bombing, hoping we would return so he could join the new Iraqi army and serve his country.," Sergeant Elmore said.

"He was scheduled to join as a junior NCO due to his education level and previous experience," he said. "We needed more senior NCOs and after hearing his story, and how courageous he appeared to be, he was promoted to senior NCO and sent to training."

Experiences like that have helped take the edge off long hours, challenging work and dangerous environments, and they provided the recruiters with real job satisfaction, Captain Ellum said.

"When I think of the brave Iraqi recruits who come into our office, and the great risks they are willing to undertake to preserve the newly won peace and liberty in their country, it's worth it," he said.

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