Tribute to the Military; God Bless America

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Iraqi Forces Take Pride

Courtesy of Multi-National Forces -Iraq

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Soldiers from the 4th Iraqi Army march during a ceremony held for their graduation of the 4th Iraqi Army Training Academy Primary Leadership and Developement Course in Tikrit, Iraq. Photo by Sgt. Jennifer J. Eidson.

Soldiers from the 4th Iraqi Army march during a ceremony held for their graduation of the 4th Iraqi Army Training Academy Primary Leadership and Developement Course in Tikrit, Iraq. Photo by Sgt. Jennifer J. Eidson.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE RUSTAMIYAH — Iraqi Soldiers and police officers creep in file along the dusty path, ignoring or pretending to ignore the escalating heat. Their boots hitting the dusty trail are the only sound, the lonely road the only scenery.

Suddenly, one of them notices a large white delivery truck parked off the road amongst some trees. While the rest pull security, he checks the deliveryman and his truck for any weapons or explosives. Everything is okay, so the patrol sets off again. Throughout the day there are other challenges, such as angry mobs and suspicious boxes.

It’s all part of a training day at a leadership course for Iraqi Army Soldiers and Iraqi national police officers. The course is vaguely similar to the U.S. Army Warrior Leaders Course, but it’s Iraqi-conceived and Iraqi-led. U.S. Soldiers are present, but only in observer and controller roles.

It is believed to be the first Iraqi-conceived and led leadership course since Operation Iraqi Freedom began. It started when U.S. Army Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi National Police Division’s transition team decided to have Iraqis run a rifle range, and it blossomed into a four-week course. For the first course, there were 20 Iraqi police officers and 30 Iraqi Soldiers, divided into two 25-man platoons.

There were some early growing pains, but the course attendees quickly came around, said U.S. Army Maj. Robel Ramirez of Naranjito, Puerto Rico, 1-4-1 NPTT chief.

“The first day on the run, they wanted to quit,” he said. “Now we run six kilometers and they’ll finish. They want to race me to the finish.”

After getting their confidence up, their attitude and performance improved.

“They’re doing a little better than I expected,” said Ramirez. “They’re taking pride in themselves and their unit. There is a healthy competition between the IA and the IPs.”

The main goal of the course, he continued, “is for them to have a better understanding of how to execute small unit leadership and be able to take their men and execute a mission.”

Attendees spent the first week on basics such as map reading, physical training, movement techniques, and drill and ceremony. Then they moved onto patrolling, offensive operations, reacting to explosives, and basic battle drills. By week three, they would be ready for an exercise to test what they learned.

With the first course running smoothly, Ramirez said there may be more courses coming. “We’re working on it,” he said. “We would like to have 20 Iraqi national police here every other month.”

The blueprint was an old Iraqi Army 60-day leadership development course.

“They crunched it into 28 days,” explained Master Sgt. Richard Jones of Cleveland, the 1-4-1 NPTT non-commissioned officer in charge. Attendees are presented with an array of challenges, according to Jones.

“They have dealt with boxes, celebratory fire from weddings, and direct contact,” Jones said. “Today should be interesting. Do you shoot to kill or let it go? They don’t know what’s coming. They’ll have to put what they’ve learned to use.”

There was some initial hesitancy between the Iraqi Soldiers and Iraqi Police to work together, but the Soldiers and police officers overcame it.

“It started rocky, but by the third day they had that friendly competition,” Jones said. “They came together on the obstacle course. They have to live and sleep and eat together.”

That bonding came in handy and helped them to meet the challenges.

“It’s long days and long nights, with map reading, reacting to fire, and clearing buildings,” Jones said. “It will all come together, then they’ll take this back to their units.”

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Donald Marshall of Miami, team medic for 1-4-1 NPTT, said attendees are showing slow, steady progress.

“It’s a building process,” he said. “It’s the first time it’s been done. This class right here is history. The guys stay motivated and they still hang in there. We had 100 percent that finished the six-kilometer run we did on Monday.”

The U.S. role is in the background, Jones continued.

“They have the right ideas, but they still have to be guided,” he said. “They’re eager to learn, they just need that direction and that’s why we’re here.”

(Story by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. W. Wayne Marlow, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs)

In other developments throughout Iraq:

•           Iraqi Security Forces teams conducted a series of raids, July 29 detaining a suspected al-Qaeda cell leader responsible for attacks and facilitating foreign fighters in the Al Qaim area.

•           Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, conducted a dental and medical assistance mission in a small village near the neighborhood of Janeen July 27.

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