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1/30/04 - BUILDING AN IRAQI ARMY - 2004-01-30

The second and third battalions of the new Iraqi army completed training in January. Each has more than seven-hundred soldiers. Recruits for the new Iraqi army are screened. Those with prior service in the old Iraqi army are not necessarily excluded. But Iraqis with a history of affiliation with the Special Republican Guard and the intelligence services, or high-level Baath Party members, are rejected.

General Paul Eaton, commander of the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team, says it will be an army “built for and by Iraqis”:

“This is not the old army. The old army oppressed and terrorized the people, served to defend a tyrannical regime, and emphasized such components of human behavior as greed, selfishness, and fear. The Iraqi armed forces of today serve the people, defend the country, and are built on values such as compassion and respect for human rights, selfless service, and tolerance of others.”

General Eaton says that recruits represent Iraq’s ethnic and religious diversity:

“Each class that is recruited is ethnically balanced. This provides an atmosphere where tolerance is essential to mission accomplished. We are looking for those individuals who wish to defend Iraq and its newfound freedom, and are skilled in such professions as truck driver, heavy equipment operator, food service, first aid, and above all else, infantry. A majority of new recruits have prior military service, and nearly all of the non-commissioned officers and officer candidates as well.”

Captain Hassan Abdel Amir Azis is an officer in the Second Battalion. A Shiite Muslim, he told a reporter that seven of his relatives had been killed under the regime of Saddam Hussein. “My family didn’t want me to be a member of this army,” said Captain Aziz, “but I told them it is our duty.”