CAMP TAJI, IRAQ, June 3, 2015 – In addition to airstrikes and training programs, another way the coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has been assisting Iraqi forces is through contributing military equipment. About 20 countries have donated more than 7.7 million pounds of equipment to Iraqi forces.
The Iraqi army’s 76th Brigade, which previously used mostly Soviet weapons, was issued new M16A2 rifles, shotguns, mortars and other military equipment supplied by the coalition recently at Taji Military Complex.
Task Group Taji, with troops from Australia and New Zealand, is supporting Iraqi Security Forces by training them on this equipment and preparing them for the fight against ISIL, said Col. Matthew Galton, Task Group Taji commander.
“This is a critical step in the brigade’s preparation for operations against Daesh and is a huge boost to (ISF) soldiers’ morale,” Galton said, using an alternate term for ISIL. “Our aim is for the Iraqis to be confident in their procedures, confident in their equipment and confident in the man fighting next to them.”
The coalition said recent setbacks in Iraq have not affected the morale of the 76th Brigade and that the equipment issue has enhanced their fighting ability.
Gen. Ali Khalid Abdullah, commander of the 76th Brigade, said he believes the new weapons are important for his soldiers.
“The (soldiers) have more confidence in these weapons,” the general said. “The Australian, New Zealand and United States forces are happy to train us on the new weapons and prepare my soldiers for the fight.”
Lt. Col. Ash Collingburn, Task Group Taji Training Team Unit commander, said these new weapons will be important in the next phase of training.
“The training so far has been excellent,” he said. “The 76th IA brigade will go through a complete training package on all the new weapons including the M16A2 rifle. Toward the end of the training, we will conduct a live firing exercise at the company level. We are developing their ability to use ‘combined arms’ and instilling in them the confidence to defeat Daesh.”
Iraqi Security Forces have progressed significantly from squad level tactics to platoon and company level tactics since Australian and New Zealand trainers arrived, according to Collingburn.
“From basic fire and movement, the soldiers have moved to combined arms training where we are incorporating heavy weapons,” he said. “This is really good progress, and the United States trainers have set us all up for success. The feedback from the Iraqis has been very positive and the results on the ground speak for themselves.”
The coalition said the 76th Brigade will redeploy from the Taji Military Complex next month as a well-prepared force to fight ISIL, while Australian and New Zealand trainers prepare to train another brigade.
Nearly 9,000 Iraqi forces have completed coalition-led training, with about another 3,200 currently in training.