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U.S. officials in Iraq are expanding a program designed to hire local Iraqis for more jobs on coalition bases in the country.

Base jobs have long been held by “third-country nationals,” contractors hired from outside Iraq to complete tasks ranging from maintenance to cooking to translation. But at more bases, locals are being hired.

The latest effort is being undertaken in Ninevah province, at places such as Contingency Operating Base Adder and what the Americans call Q-West. Base officials held a February job fair.

“This area is a farming community and has been hit very hard by the drought for the past three to four years. ... We won’t be able to help everyone, of course, but every little bit helps, and employment opportunities foster the great working relationships and security for this area,” Lt. Col. Alan Dorow, commander of the 181st Brigade Support Battalion, and the Q-West base mayor, said in an Army news release.

Officials also are working with local sheiks and civic leaders to develop list of locals with skills to fill base jobs.

“This requires an understanding of the local demographics, as well as ‘buy-in’ and cooperation among the local leaders,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Garrison, commander of the 81st Brigade Special Troops Battalion and the base defense operations commander. In many cases, thousands of civilian jobs on U.S. bases are being eyed as an answer.

Local labor cooperatives serve as brokers to primary contractors, such as KBR Inc.

In Anbar province, the program began at Haditha and is slated to spread to all major cities in the province. At Al Asad Air Base, for example, officials hope to fill 5,000 base jobs with locals within the year.

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