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Byline: Bill Glauber
BALAD, Iraq _ It was final exam day for the latest recruits of the fledgling Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, 39 men who survived the rigors of one week's training in a concrete ammo bunker and the desert nearby.
Dressed in slacks and sport shirts, they performed basic first aid, set up mock searches and checkpoints, hunted through sand and scrub for unexploded bombs and attempted to break down and reassemble Iraq's national rifle, the AK-47 _ a task that flummoxed many of them on their first and even second tries.
The Iraqi recruits took their tests under the watchful eyes of several American soldiers, whose initial skepticism about the program melted away amid the summer heat and close quarters while training men eager to secure their country and pick up a paycheck.
"I call them the brave souls," Army Staff Sgt. Adam Reyes said of the Iraqis, who will be hitting the streets soon after graduation.
To the Bush administration, the recruits are part of an elaborate plan to put the nation's security in the hands of its people, with Iraqis filling roles in the police force, the newly reconstituted army, the border patrol and the Civil Defense …