NEWS | July 7, 2011

Operation Lion showcases ISF ability to protect citizens, defend Iraq

By , U.S. Division-North Public Affairs

CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq (July 1, 2011) — Following months of collective training with 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, members of the Iraqi Security Forces conducted Operation Iron Lion at Ghuzlani Warrior Training Center and Ghuzlani Eagle Training Site, Iraq, June 27.

Iron Lion is a capstone training demonstration performed at the provincial level to demonstrate Iraqi Security Forces’ capabilities and the ability of its units to work cohesively to defend Iraq.

“I would like to see the training become routine and part of their continued process to sustain their forces,” said Maj. Gen. David G. Perkins, U.S. Division – North and 4th Infantry Division commanding general.

Years from now, the people of Ninewa can look toward a very peaceful and prosperous province based upon the security achieved by the training between U.S. and Iraqi forces, said Perkins, a native of Keene, N.H.

“It’s been a partnership the whole way, and what we see is this partnership will continue,” Perkins said.

The series of exercises included Iraqi Police, 3rd Federal Police, Iraqi Special Operation Forces and Iraqi Army soldiers showcasing newly-honed skills for U.S. and Iraqi military leaders.

Iraqi policemen assigned to 3rd Federal Police Division began the demonstration with an operation at Ghuzlani Eagle Training Site, reacting to role-players driving a suspicious vehicle as part of the training scenario.

After eliminating the notional threat, Iraqi Police conducted a crime scene investigation and police officers specializing in crowd control proceeded to contain a group of role-players demonstrating against the ISF.

“It’s very gratifying to see that their security forces are firmly in charge of securing Ninewa province and continuing to build a professional military force,” said Col. Brian Winski, commander, 4th AAB, 1st Cav. Div.

“As you look at the history of Iraq over the course of the last eight years, there have been some periods that were very problematic in terms of the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces, but that is no longer the case,” said Winski. “This is our main training effort – to help the Iraqis achieve a foundational capability for defense against external threats, which are portrayed in these exercises.”

Through extensive training and hard work, the ISF developed a foundation to protect the people of Ninewa province, said Winski, a native of Milwaukee.

Leading to the training exercise, Soldiers assigned to 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th AAB, trained Iraqi federal policemen to conduct urban operations, checkpoint procedures and tactics to increase proficiency in combating terrorists and criminals.

Using tactics improved upon from previous training events, the federal policemen conducted a hasty raid to apprehend “terrorists” who fired a simulated rocket-propelled grenade at a checkpoint.

Acting on information gathered in an intelligence report compiled from the first training event, Iraqi Special Operation Forces tactically moved down a dirt road, closing in on a building suspected of holding notional hostages. Moments later, the group of specially trained soldiers assigned to 7th Regional Commando Battalion, 2nd Iraqi Army Division, moved inside, capturing the criminals and rescuing the hostages.

At nearby Ghuzlani Warrior Training Center, Iraqi Army leaders laid out a detailed terrain map and briefed units for a battalion-level live fire exercise to culminate Iron Lion.

Iraqi soldiers of 1st Bn., 10th Bde., 3rd IA Div., spent the month leading up to Iron Lion conducting Tadreeb al Shamil, or all inclusive training. Troops studied basic infantry operations under the direct mentorship of cavalry troopers assigned to 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Division, 4th AAB.

“When this unit started their training, I’d say they started out doing a really good job,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Hayes, platoon sergeant, Troop C, 1st Sqdn., 9th Cav. Regt. “To this point they have all improved. The soldiers have shown that they care about the training they get, and I think they will do very well.”

Hayes, who hails from Natchez, Miss., said he believes a combination of in-depth training and solid leadership resulted in an outstanding demonstration for the senior U.S. and Iraqi military leaders, and news media representatives attending the event.

Iraqi soldiers were very eager to demonstrate their combat efficiency to their senior leadership and the Iraqi people, said 1st Sgt. Ali, 1st Bn., 10th Bde., 3rd IA Div.

“My men are well trained and ready,” said Ali. “The (U.S.) forces have helped us greatly when it comes to how to conduct training. We want to prove that we are proficient and ready for the security mission in Iraq.”

Using infantry ground units, and mortar crews for indirect fire support, 1st Battalion assaulted three separate locations of “terrorist cells” in the hills of GWTC.

Sergeant Daniel Martinez, Troop C, 1st Sqdn., 9th Cav. Regt., said the live fire exercise provided both the soldiers on the ground and the gathered audience a good example of what it takes to correctly maneuver on a battlefield and accomplish a mission.

“It really is a spectacular thing to see – hundreds of Iraqi soldiers shooting, moving and communicating,” said Martinez, a native of Reno, Nev. “I think it will really boost the esprit de corps of the Iraqi people to see that their military can accomplish all of this.”

Winski said he was impressed by the overall performance of the Iraqi Army battalion during the demonstration.

“The battalion live fire is a very complex operation and they did it exceptionally well,” said Winski. “‘Long Knife’ troopers will continue training them to further enhance their capabilities.”

Long Knife Soldiers of 4th AAB, 1st Cav. Div., are scheduled to begin their seventh monthlong training cycle with a new group of Iraqi soldiers in July.

Following the live fire finale, ISF leaders representing each of the participating units in Iron Lion answered questions from the media regarding the demonstrations, and the future of Iraqi Security Forces, during a press conference at Contingency Operating Site Diamondback.

Iraqi leaders remain confident in Iraqi Security Forces’ improved ability to secure the area and the future of Iraq, said Iraqi Brig. Gen. Khalid Sa’adon, public affairs officer for the Ninewa Operations Center.

Sa’adon said tactics taught by U.S. Soldiers will enable Iraqi Security Forces to protect Iraq from any future attacks they may face.

“We conducted this exercise to show the whole world that we have coordination between the ISF,” said Sa’adon. “We would like to show to the people everywhere that the ISF is one hand helping each other.”