This one year course is modeled after the legendary Sandhurst Academy in the UK, and the graduates become Lieutenants in the Iraqi Army. The photos below show the 207 graduates from the Iraqi Army Corps of Cadets singing the Iraqi National Anthem during Thursday's ceremony.
What you can't see in the picture is that across the auditorium floor, the bleachers are filled with the families of the graduating cadets. This is a first. In previous graduations, only a handful of parents were present. Now they are turning out in large numbers and bring their extended families. At the conclusion of the ceremony, they threw sweets at the graduates and then rushed the floor to embrace them and pin their lieutenant epaulets on them.
Much of our effort in this war, as in all counterinsurgencies, depends on the development of an effective indigenous security force that enjoys the confidence of the local population. The 207 new Iraqi Army Lieutenants who graduated on Thursday clearly will not turn the tide of this conflict by themselves. But the fact that their families are neither afraid for their sons, nor afraid to be at such a ceremony is a small cause for optimism for Iraq's future.
Iraqi Military Academy cadets singing the national anthem at their graduation ceremony.
Iraqi families congratulate their new Lieutenants.