A member of the Iraqi Security Force keeps watch during the inauguration ceremony for the Najaf International Airport July 20. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret)
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq (July 30, 2008) — This past June, Iraqi Army Soldiers in Taji recovered two broken down humvees on their own and restored them without any help from Coalition maintenance.
“Probably the most exciting thing for me is I compare (today) to our partnership with the IA in 2006, and it’s night and day,” said Capt. Steve Chadwick, and Iraqi Security Forces coordinator with Multi-National Division – Center, who was stationed in Tal Afar and Ramadi at that time.
Just two years ago, Coalition mechanics took care of the bulk of repairing vehicles and replacing parts. Not anymore, said Chadwick.
Maintenance is not the only area where ISF are more proficient. There are now more Regional and Divisional Training Centers in Iraq than ever before, with classes taught by either Iraqi noncommissioned officers or civilian instructors who are experts in a specific field.
“The future is the IA taking up training all on its own. It’s already begun,” said Capt Kyle Kirby, an ISF coordinator with the 10th Mtn. Div.
Before, many of these courses were supervised or even taught by Coalition instructors. Iraqi forces units also relied more heavily on training with Military Transition Teams.
The Coalition’s partnership with ISF has shifted from a leading role to a strategic one. The Coalition now serves as an “enabler” to help ISF complete missions. This means providing support using advanced technologies Iraqi forces have not yet established.
“We make sure the Iraqis get the necessary training and advice, so that they may operate their own military properly,” said Capt. Thomas Obrien, an aide de camp for the Iraqi Assistance Group, which works in partnership with ISF.
One of the major goals in improving Iraq’s forces is by increasing the number of NCOs and officers who can lead and mentor fellow troops.
Two elements are working to achieve this goal: recruiting centers and military academies.
Currently, there are 13 recruiting stations across Iraq taking applications from local citizens; former IA members wanting to return to service; and Sons of Iraq.Mobile recruiting drives engage the population in areas without local centers. Three more centers are planned for future efforts.
There are now 15 Iraqi Police academies in Iraq that can accommodate and train a sum of 20,000 recruits. Among the 15, two academies train National Police and three train border enforcement agents. Another 24 military academies train a variety of ISF, including a naval center, five officer schools and other Army training centers and branch schools.
By the end of 2008, eight training cycles, which began in Dec. 2007, will be complete in an effort to stand up 13 IA Divisions. Each training cycle produces 14,000 new troops, which will account for 112,000 new ISF members by January 2009. Of those, 4,000 will be new officers.
The number of schools and recruits continues to rise, and the quality and variety of their training programs is also improving. Regional centers, such as the ones in Taji and An Numaniyah, teach proficiency in logistics, advanced medical courses, maintenance, armor, welding, and engineering.
The training and proficiency of the ISF continue to secure the Iraqi people. Their successes make way for major improvements in the economy, infrastructure and future of Iraq.
“It’s a good sign to see them taking control of their own country,” said Capt. Dave Hansen, of Plano, Texas, officer in charge of the Fusion cell for 10th Mtn. Div.