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Marines start up boot camp in Iraq

8 Jun 2004 | Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

There aren't any  "Smokey Bear" covers, but make no mistake.  Marines are opening a new boot camp center in Iraq.

This one, however, makes soldiers for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.  Marines from Regimental Combat Team 1 are building up a training facility in Nassir Al Wa Salaam, Iraq.  Construction on the facility began in early June and training picked up right away.

The boot camp is designed to offer the ICDC soldiers an abbreviated course in basic soldiering and it's still being constructed.  It's housed inside the ICDC compound dubbed Camp India, and is just about fully operational.

Still, Marines are making sure it has all the Iraqis will need to make soldiers.

"Right now we're just doing the basics to make the compound operational," explained CWO 2 Wayne D. Duree, the platoon commander for Operations Platoon, Company A, Combat Service Support Battalion 1. "We have a very long list of projects we have to accomplish because this will eventually be a permanent operating training facility."

Marines plan on giving the compound a face-lift, adding new doors, windows, electricity and running water throughout the housing units, according to Duree.

"We're clearing the entire compound of rubble and excess dirt," he said.  "We plan to build an obstacle course and we've already built a firing range for these guys."

"It took us about a week to gather a training staff, build up the camp and make this place inhabitable, and we plan to keep this going for a long time," said Capt. Trey S. Chairsell, RCT-1's assistant logistics officer.

The boot camp will feature not just updated facilities, but improved training programs as well.

Each training evolution will cycle 180 ICDC soldiers through a seven-day session.  Training will enhance their weapons skills and drill, uniform regulations and other military customs.

"Our regiment is building this boot camp and our Marines will provide the marksmanship training for the ICDC," said CWO 3 Robert M. Brooks, RCT-1's infantry weapons officer.  "Most of the soldiers are fairly new with little military experience, so we have to start off with the fundamentals of shooting."

Marines on the trenches have high hopes for the new facility and the Iraqi soldiers going through the training.

"It's good to get these guys weapons trained by Marines because no one will better train them than Marines," said Cpl. Mike S. Bailey, 22, a heavy machine gunner with RCT-1.  "We're not trying to make them Marines, but rather a credible force."

Marines will maintain the training programs for the foreseeable future, but plans are already in the works to hand it over to an ICDC staff.  Eventually Iraqi noncommissioned will train their own ranks.

"For now, we just want to instill a sense of credibility in the ICDC soldiers; like teamwork, to stand a little taller, how to wear a uniform and teach them how to build an esprit de corps," Chairsell added. "Our end goal is to have ICDC NCOs train their own guys."