KIRKUK — Thirty-seven females attended the first day of training at the Kirkuk Police Academy outside of Kirkuk City, Aug. 16.
It’s been a year since the academy has seen any Iraqi females in blue, and never a class of this size.
“We need these females badly,” Lt. Col. Muid, a cadre at the academy said. “It is our religious custom not to touch our women, so we cannot search females. Our female IPs will be extremely important to use at checkpoints and government buildings throughout the province.”
The cadre pointed out that they would also be bringing a different perspective to policing.
“Women think differently than men,” he said. “They will bring fresh ideas to how we conduct business.”
The 37 females are split into squad-like elements. Each squad will have a female military police Soldier assisting – Sgt. 1st Class Sumalee Bustamante and Spc. Jennifer Swierk.
“This is going to be a big challenge,” Swierk said, referring to the cultural differences, “but I’m proud to be a part of this page in Kirkuk’s, if not Iraq’s history.”
“This is going to be an amazing experience for all of us,” Bustamante added. “I’m looking forward to helping my fellow female police officer and being a part of the positive historic changes occurring here.”
For Nowal, 30, a trainee who has never held a job and lives with her brother – also a member of the Kirkuk police force – the experience so far has her realizing she has a lot of work ahead of her.
“I am very tired,” she said of the first day of training. However, she is determined to “serve my country.”
In lieu of the recent increase in female suicide bombers, these women are undaunted by the dangers of the field they have chosen. When asked what they would do if they were to spot one at a check-point, as a group they did not hesitate to answer:
“Man or women, if you come through our check point we will stop you.”
“Terrorists are not welcome in the province of Kirkuk,” Intesar, 29, said. “They are not Iraqis – they are not Muslim. It is not our way.”
The women must complete a four-week course and fulfill the same standards as the males to graduate. Following two hours of calisthenics each morning, which consists of marching, running and various drills geared toward team-building, the day is spent rotating from indoor to outdoor classroom instruction on law enforcement procedures ranging from democratic policing, human rights, hostage survival, basic first aid and responding to an ambush.