I got an afternoon with the soldiers of the 94th Military Police Company today, where I got to sit down with a bunch of people from New Hampshire and talk about their work in Iraq. It included some of the most encouraging discussions of my trip thus far. The 94th MPC is training Iraqi Police, or IPs, to be good cops, and at this point they don’t even train anymore. The Iraqis now have police officers who specialize in training, officers the soldiers trust. The soldiers didn’t shy away from the challenges–many trainees aren’t committed to their training or their jobs–but they have seen growth and investment. One member of the company who is also a cop in southern New Hampshire said the officers here are starting to form the sort of tight knit bonds that connect officers everywhere. They are still forming, he said, but it has begun.
I’ve heard a lot of concern about what will happen here in 11 months, when the military is scheduled to hand Iraq back to the Iraqis, but there is hope too. That these officers are training themselves, and that the 94th MPC is there only to assist, is a reason for hope. Several soldiers told me before they came to Iraq they didn’t have much compassion for the Iraqis. As far as they understood, Iraqis were incapable of governing themselves and living peacefully together. But the experience of working in Iraq with people dedicated to the country’s future has made them reexamine that view. They now want very badly for this country to survive, not just for America’s sake but for the sake of their new friends.
It’s nice to taste that hope. It isn’t the overwhelming sentiment here, but it’s here enough that it can’t be ignored.