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Marines train Iraqi Special Forces for security role

26 Jun 2004 | Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr. and Sgt. Jose L. Garcia

For nearly two weeks Marines with 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion's Company B trained Iraq's most experienced elite force - former Republican Guard.

The 11-day one-time event helped the Marines gain valuable lessons from men who first fought during the Iraq-Iran War, during the 1980s.

"These guys are pretty old," said 1st Sgt. Octaviano Gallegos Jr., company first sergeant from Las Cruces, N.M.  "They're anywhere from their late thirties to fifties.  Most of them are old and look out of shape, but they're fierce."

The Iraqi group has been working directly for Coalition Forces since the fall of Saddam's regime, joining different units throughout Iraq, patrolling towns in search of anti-coalition forces.

"These guys are very loyal to their country," Gallegos said.  "They were never loyal to Saddam's regime.  So once his regime fell, they were some of the first men to join the Coalition Forces in helping provide security for the country."

Training with Iraq's Special Forces offered Marines a chance to experience not only a different military structure, but culture as well.

"We're learning from them as much as they are from us," said Lance Cpl. Michael K. Sutton, from Houston, and a mechanic.  "Everybody seems happy to be here.  They're interested in coming out here and learning and they are doing it for the big game.  There is no question on my mind they will do a good job.  They want to help their country."

One of Regimental Combat Team 7's primary missions is getting local forces trained and equipped to handle security for its own people, now that sovereignty is completely turned over.  Former Iraqi forces will be relied on to help further the process along.

"These guys know what they're doing," Gallegos explained.  "There are some really bad dudes out there.  They may not look impressive but they move like lightning when in a fight."

The training sessions include physical training twice a day as well as classes on tactics and martial arts.

"They use tai kwon do," Gallegos said.  "A lot of our moves are derived from this martial art.  They concentrate more on throwing though."

The Iraqis were put in different groups according to their abilities and demonstrated different techniques for the Marines.

The Marines enjoyed their time training with the Iraqis due to their hard work ethic and ability to quickly lean into the training.

"They came over here to see the other side of the fence," Lance Cpl. Rodney V. Trinidad, from Mangilao, Guam, a communications technician.  "They basically try to learn what we do.  Their knowledge is good and a lot of these guys are really smart.  We're learning a lot of Arabic from them."

According to several Marines they have a tendency to use a copycat technique.  Marines demonstrate the tactics and techniques and Iraqi forces perform them as they were taught. 

They were also just as grateful to participate in the cross-training exercise.

"We are very grateful to the American Forces for ousting Saddam Hussein," said Iraqi 1st Sgt. Nohad Kadhm Jadoaa, a paratrooper and 18-year veteran of the Iraqi military.   "Giving the power back to the Iraqi people is nice but we still need their help."