For these recruits and their peers, dubbed the Oil Police, using these skills to secure the infrastructure of one the country’s most precious assets is a primary goal. Oil Police work to prevent attacks from terrorists and smugglers on Iraq’s four main refineries and nine regional refineries, alongside coverage of some 4,000 miles (6,400 km) of oil and gas pipelines.
Major Rafae Faisal Abdul Hammad al Janaby, 38, a recent graduate of the training course, says the lessons he learnt made him better at his job. “I achieved more than one thing with the Italians, in particular weapons skills and how to treat and deal with suspected persons. The Carabineri were very good trainers.”
Protecting an important asset
Iraq has some of the biggest oil reserves in the world and has recently reportedly signed deals to boost its production capacity to 12 million barrels a day by 2017. Protecting this industry’s infrastructure is crucial to the successful reconstruction of the country.
“The training was tailored to my duty, specifically the weapons skills lessons and the lessons about security infrastructures,” says Mjr. alJanaby, who was in the Iraqi army for 14 years as a platoon leader before joining the police.
“It helps us to know how to protect this critical economic infrastructure. I am sure that the Italians are doing their best in order to elevate the Iraqi Oil Police and make us better,” he says, adding that his motivation to join both the army and the police force was to serve his country.
Training recruits for the future
The NATO Training Mission – Iraq (NTM-I), has been training some 800 Oil Police, and 120 trainers, since October 2010 alongside regular federal police training which has nearly 10,000 graduates.
According to Colonel Fausto Vignola, NTM-I Gendarmerie Training Head, the goal of the course is to contribute toward the development of a flexible and capable organization. “The Iraqi Oil Police asked for NATO support in order to improve their capability to protect the oil infrastructure placed under its responsibility,” he explains, adding that protection refers to the physical aspects related to the production and shipping of oil, as well as legal aspects such as smuggling and document forgery.
The best performing recruits are selected to take part in the elite ‘Train the Trainers’ course, where they receive instructor training so that in the future they will be the ones shouting commands instead of the Carabineri. “The Iraqi Oil Police will reach self-sustaining capability this way,” explains Col. Vignola, adding that yet another course will follow to teach the trainers of trainers. This means that eventually Iraqi Police will have a strong, active Oil Police academy for the future.