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ICDC soldiers go through mini-boot camp

9 Jun 2004 | Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

Iraqi soldiers are learning military discipline, Marine Corps-style.

That's due to the new mini-boot camp set up for Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldier by Marines from Regimental Combat Team 1.  The goal is to instill more discipline, better tactics and general knowledge of military customs, according to Marines instructing the courses. 

Marines from RCT-1 took charge of the new boot camp-like training facility, dubbed Camp India near Nassir Al Wa Salaam and the 180 ICDC soldiers expected to rotate weekly. Iraqi soldiers are slated to endure seven-day training sessions at the hands of Marines.

"The purpose of this training camp is to teach ICDC soldiers basic Marine Corps infantry-type tactics," explained Staff Sgt. Anthony V. Gabriel, the camp's staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge.  "We want to make them better soldiers, so when we leave, they can actually do some good for their country."

Two ICDC battalions, the ICDC's 505th and 506th Battalions, agreed to the program and each are providing 90 soldiers to cycle through the training evolutions.

"They're already soldiers, so they're here to learn how to execute tactics and just gain some new knowledge," said Gabriel, a 29-year-old from San Diego. "It's a refresher course, but we're implementing the way Marines operate."

Marines are taking on the role of drill instructors and expose the Iraqi soldiers to the rigors often expected in Marine boot camp.

They received the initial shock like Marines do the first day of boot camp, Gabriel added.

"A lot of them expected to sleep all day and smoke all of their cigarettes," said Sgt. Chad E. Murch, a camp instructor.  "They were wrong."

Murch said a handful of the trainees wanted to quit the first day, but eventually came around and are still in the program.

"We're training these soldiers so they can return to their officers ready to make a difference," said Murch, a 25-year-old from San Francisco, who also serves as the senior Arabic translator for 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines.  "We're just aggressive."

The 180 soldiers are broken down to four 45-man platoons.  Each platoon is assigned to four Marine instructors and one interpreter.

"The language barrier can make it difficult, but we're getting by," Gabriel said.

The soldiers endure life much like Marine recruits, including early wake-up calls, physical training every morning and being bombarded with lessons in field medicine and military customs.

The ICDC troops are fed native food through a local contractor and are allowed to practice their religion five times a day.  Those portions of the training were built into the program by Marines.

"We're not trying to make them Marines, but rather a credible force," Capt. Trey S. Chairsell, the 27-year-old assistant logistics officer for the regiment.  "Another prime focus is making sure the camp structure is set up."

Marines anticipate handing over their instructor roles to seasoned Iraqi noncommissioned officers, but will keep a presence while soldiers are cycled through.

"Eventually, we'll pick out some good Iraqi NCOs that will take our positions as instructors and then we'll just play a supervisory role," Gabriel added.

Since the compound's doors opened for service June 5, the Marines have kept busy making improvements throughout the camp like building an obstacle course and a rifle range.

"Hopefully after we're long gone, they will continue to use this facility," said Chairsell, a 27-year-old from Las Vegas. "It's been a cultural challenge, so we want to make sure we do this right."