August 2013 saw the start of a new recruitment drive in the south-eastern Wassit Province, when Health, Safety, Security and Environment service provider, Stirling Group, was contracted to recruit, train and run a dedicated Fire Service to the Gazprom-operated Badra oil field.
Over 400 local Iraqis between the age of 18 and 30 were chosen to take part in assessment centres in Al Kut in order to gain a place on the intensive fire-fighting training programme, beginning in Iraq and completing at the specialist, Fire Service College at Moreton-in-Marsh, UK.
The assessment centres tested applicants’ IQ, Arabic literacy and physical aptitude, with an accompanying interview with their future Fire-Fighting instructors. This recruitment process ensured that the recruits were committed to learning the essential skills required to become a qualified fire fighter.
The successful 69 trainees then began their basic fire and English language training in Iraq, whilst their UK visas were under process. The in-country training was conducted by their Fire Team leaders, who are a mixture of expatriate and bilingual professional fire fighters. This core team also accompany the trainees throughout their training in the UK and will be employed as management for the dedicated Fire Service to the Badra Field.
The group of instructors and trainees have formed a strong bond given the intensive nature of the training programme and the uniqueness of the opportunity. For many of the trainees their flight to the UK was their first journey out of Iraq and, indeed, on a plane, which made for an interesting flight from the Middle East to Great Britain in December.
The trainees were then chaperoned to the Fire Service College, which would be their home until March 2014. During this time, trainees receive a monthly salary upon successful completion of their training, which will increase when they become full-time fire-fighters on back in Iraq.