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Kirkush Training Base pace intensifies

By Sgt. Coltin Heller , 109th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mark Rimi, Company A, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, conducts an after action review with Iraqi Soldiers assigned to 3rd Battalion, 21st Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division, after an iteration of platoon maneuvering exercises near Kirkush Military Training Base, Jan. 18, 2011. Photo by Sgt. Coltin Heller.

KIRKUSH MILITARY TRAINING BASE (Jan. 21, 2011) — With the onset of Operation New Dawn, U.S. Division-North Soldiers transitioned from combat operations to an advise and assist role, assuming the mission to hone the capabilities of Iraqi Army Soldiers and provide skills to create a self-sustaining force.

Soldiers assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, are working closely with Iraqi Army soldiers through January at the Kirkush Military Training Base.

“The purpose of KMTB is to strengthen the 5th Iraqi Army Division,” said Staff Sgt. Cedric McKethan, platoon sergeant assigned to Company A, 1st Bn., 21st Inf. Regt., “We are shaping this training base into our version of Fort Benning, as this will be an infantry training school.”

Participating in a 25-day training cycle, 3rd Battalion, 21st Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division is training as part of Tadreeb Al Shamil, Arabic for All Inclusive Training, an Iraqi initiative directing IA battalions to train their units to conduct individual and collective training, developing multiple infantry techniques and battle drills.

Before sunrise, Iraqi soldiers conduct physical training with guidance from “Gator” Soldiers of Company A, 1st Bn., 21st Inf. Regt. Physical training varies each day focusing on muscle strength and running endurance.

“We instill the importance of physical training to them,” said McKethan, who hails from Fayetteville, S.C. “It’s essential for a military force to have a good physical training program.”

After PT, Iraqi soldiers eat a quick breakfast and head out for the day’s training, consisting of individual and squad-level tasks.

U.S Soldiers teach training lessons covering basic rifle marksmanship skills and weapons maintenance classes, familiarizing Iraqi soldiers with the M16 rifle, said Sgt. Robert Dunleavy, KMTB instructor and team leader assigned to Company A. “Most of them have never used an M16 before, only the AK-47.”

Under the tutelage of U.S. Division-North Soldiers, the Iraqis learn to become proficient at maneuvering squad and company-sized elements, conducting patrols through urban and open terrain and clearing buildings.

“At first they didn’t have a solid grasp on how to maneuver,” said Dunleavy, a Summersville, S.C., native. “However, they understood the training and the reasons behind it, and before long they were moving efficiently.”

Originally stationed at Forward Operating Base Warhorse, 1st Bn., 21st Inf. Regt., 2nd AAB Soldiers moved to KMTB to better facilitate training of Iraqi forces, he added.

“It’s just like teaching our Soldiers, even with the language barrier, which we overcome,” said Dunleavy. “We have leadership skills that we pass on to them.”

During training exercises, such as squad and company live-fires, instructors inform the Iraqi officers what needs to happen, then observe the Iraqis conducting the training, he said.

The 5th Iraqi Army Division, involved in “The Battle of the Palm Grove,” in Aug. 2010, determined the need for Iraqi squads and platoons to be proficient when operating in wooded environments, said Dunleavy. 

At the request of IA leaders, 2nd AAB Soldiers led a platoon exercise with 3rd IA Div., Jan. 18, to train the soldiers how to maneuver around enemy forces concealed in undergrowth.

“We are teaching them to operate in a palm grove type environment,” said Dunleavy. “They build the terrain models and form the plan they want to execute. If it’s good, we let the platoon leaders take charge, and only step in to make on the spot corrections.” 

“It’s very much a ‘train-the-trainer’ course,” he added.

In addition to field craft, Iraqi units also learned logistical operations, supplying and supporting their own operations furthering their self-reliance.

“It’s easy to give them supplies, but they need to have those enablers in place to be self-sustaining,” said McKethan.

As U.S. forces provide Iraqi Army units the tools necessary to provide a secure and stable country, McKethan said he believes the training will not be in vain.

“It’s great to see the strides the Iraqis are making with the training, and that the efforts of the Soldiers is going to a good cause,” said McKethan.