BESMAYA RANGE COMPLEX, Iraq, April 15, 2015 - The coalition effort to build partner capacity, or BPC, within the ranks of the Iraqi military so that it can continue the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is growing.
Hundreds of Australian and New Zealand forces will soon join the militaries of other countries in the training program, the Australian Defence Force said in a statement today. About 300 Australian and 100 New Zealand personnel will form Task Group Taji, which will include a training team as well as command, force protection and support elements.
Besides Australia, New Zealand and the U.S., the other countries who have announced their participation in the BPC program include Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom.
In remarks last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the effort against ISIL is "going to require the building of the capacity of local forces, because ultimately they must take the lead and take responsibility, because if we're to have a defeat of ISIL, which we must and will, it must be a lasting defeat."
Members of the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, work alongside Iraqi army soldiers of the 15th and 16th divisions to aid in the fight against ISIL.
"The mission of BPC (in Taji, Iraq) is to create a partnership with the (Iraqi army's) 15th and 16th divisions, to facilitate a training doctrine, as well as increase the overall performance of the Iraqi soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Caleb E. Turnbough, combat engineer attached to Company A, 2-505th PIR.
Turnbough works directly with Iraqi soldiers as a primary instructor, training them in infantry tactics and engineering procedures.
Lessons have varied from the basics of individual movement techniques to larger types of assaults. Subject matter experts from an array of combat specialties - like explosive ordnance disposal, mortars and infantry - instruct Iraqi soldiers in conducting battle.
"(The Iraqi soldiers) seem to pick things up pretty fast," said Spc. Ryan Bussell, infantryman with Company B, 2-505th PIR. "We've covered breaching obstacles from the most basic parts of a squad breach to a company breach."
Bussell led his own team of Iraqi infantrymen from the 16th Division in a number of exercises. He, along with Sgt. Cody Sorrell, a forward observer with Company A, 2-505th PIR, taught the Iraqi soldiers standard tactics, techniques and procedures of combat.
"I just want (the Iraqi soldiers) to have confidence in the training that we're giving them," said Sorrell. "They have their own tactics and standard operating procedures, but I just want them to have confidence going into battle."
BPC instructors said workdays went well, but did not lack in challenges.
"(The Iraqi soldiers') motivation is high, they just need to be focused in on the task," Sorrell said.
Sorrell said that at times training could get hectic and confusing, and the language barrier made it difficult to communicate. Over the weeks, even with speaking two completely different languages, the forces began to better understand one another. At times, the instructors would have to use hand gestures to communicate with the soldiers, but Bussell used the experience as an opportunity to learn Arabic.
Working side-by-side for days gave the two forces a chance to not only teach one another combat techniques, but learn about one another's culture.
Some days, members of the 2-505th PIR would conduct physical training with the Iraqi soldiers and members of the Spanish Legion, another part of the BPC coalition. Through friendly competitions, the forces simultaneously conducted physical training and strengthened their relationship.
Turnbough said the BPC mission helps grow the partnership between the coalition and Iraq. "Having a good relationship is always a good thing," he said.
Bussell said this deployment gives him peace of mind and this mission holds great value to him. "Building a relationship to help (Iraq) support themselves and build up their own country changes the mind frame and the way of thinking."
(Central Command Public Affairs contributed to this report.)