AL ASAD, Iraq -- Six weeks of hard work and determination finally paid off for 12 local Iraqis when they graduated from a challenging course hosted by the Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14 here Aug. 23.
The Iraqi graduates were participants in the Iraqi Construction Apprentice Program, an outreach program established by the Seabees to train unemployed Iraqis in basic construction skills.
The course was the third ICAP held in Iraq, by the Seabees, who have conducted similar programs in the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. At the conclusion of the course, each graduate received a certificate and a set of tools donated by American businesses.
“It’s an opportunity for us to give back to an oppressed nation,” said Chief Petty Officer Walter A. Groover, steel worker chief, NMCB-14. “We are utilizing the Seabees to teach their construction skills to the Iraqi people.”
After successfully completing the six-week phase one portion of the 12-week curriculum designed to provide students with the skills necessary to rebuild their country, the graduates are moving on to the final half of their training, which will help them find construction employment within their communities.
Groover said that while the instructors are dedicated to teaching their Iraqi pupils proper construction techniques, they are also careful to ensure that what they teach can be easily combined with existing Iraqi building principles.
“We are not here to westernize the (Iraqi people’s) building skills,” he pointed out. “We want to pass on our knowledge so that they can incorporate it into their traditions.”
According to Groover, in order to complete the program the Iraqis had to master basic construction skills in four different areas: plumbing, carpentry, masonry and electrical wiring.
“The Seabees are all experienced in their particular trade,” remarked Groover. “We have certified electricians, carpenters and engineers to teach all of these classes.”
If the expectations of Cmdr. John Prien, commanding officer, NMCB-14, are met, the training provided by the Seabees will have a positive and lasting effect throughout Iraq.
“We hope that this training and these tools will go a long way in the strengthening of Iraq,” he expressed. “We want Iraq to be a free and successful country.”
For many of the Seabee instructors, the course was a pleasurable experience that helped form a bond between student and teacher.
“I’ve had a lot of fun during this project,” said Petty Officer 1st Class John D. Graham, lead instructor, NMCB-14. “I actually made friends with some of the Iraqis.”
The students who took part in the program were all volunteers and were excited to jump in and start learning, according to Graham.
“They showed a lot of interest (in the program),” he remarked. “Each one was very eager to learn. In the beginning, they would struggle to be the first in line to (practice what they had learned).”
At the conclusion of phase one of the ICAP, each graduate received a certificate and expressed a feeling of pride, reflecting their unique accomplishment.
“I’m very happy to have finished,” said a jubilant ICAP graduate. “The instructors were very good and now I want to show my friends what I have learned.”