CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- A partnership between Regimental Combat Team 5 and the Iraqi Army here was cemented when commanders from the coalition shook hands yesterday.
Col. Larry D. Nicholson, RCT-5 commander met with Iraqi Brig. Gen. Abdulla Abdulkareem Abdul Satter, commanding officer of 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division for the first time. Nicholson recently assumed control of the region from North Carolina-based Regimental Combat Team 8. The Marine regiment and the Iraqi 4th Brigade are partnered in security operations for the greater Fallujah area.
“One of my first priorities is to meet with each unit working with the RCT in order to get a clear understanding of their issues and build good working relationships,” Nicholson said.
The purpose of the partnership with the Iraqi brigade is to increase the brigade’s capabilities and confidence. In the long term, both Marines and Iraqis plan on transferring complete military authority to Iraqi forces, independent of U.S. support.
“Every day we will do less than the day before,” Nicholson said. “Every day the Iraqis will do more than what they did yesterday.”
Battalions from the 4th Brigade are currently operating in the cities of Fallujah, Gharma and Nasser Wa Salaam.
“We look forward to continue to build on our relationship with the Americans to the benefit of both countries and both militaries,” Abdulla said. “The brigade has been here 18 months and we have been able to overcome the difficulties so far by working closely with the Marines and cooperating with each other.”
Several officers from the RCT-5 staff attended the brief, meeting their counterparts at the 4th Brigade and offered future assistance.
The 4th Brigade leaders raised several issues during the meeting, including a desire for additional communications gear and spare parts for their vehicles.
Nicholson promised assistance in working with the brigade issues. Additionally, he offered to provide enhanced training packages to brigade soldiers in close-quarters battle, combat first aid and vehicle maintenance.
In addition to the partnership with the Marines, 4th Brigade has a U.S. Army Military Transition Team assigned in direct support of the brigade. The MiTT – a team of specialized military advisors – has worked with the 4th Brigade since August 2005.
“We are working with 4th Brigade to help them become a more capable force, and they are improving every day,” said LtCol. Doug Anderson, the 39-year-old Military Transition Team Leader for 4th Brigade. “We will continue to focus on the areas needing improvement that Gen. Abdullah prioritizes.”
Abdulla invited the Marines to attend an awards ceremony for one of the 4th Brigade battalion commanders after the meeting and a dinner of grilled fish and lamb kabobs in honor of the new partnership.
Abdulla awarded Col. Abdullah Mnahi Najm, commanding officer for 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat “V” for valor in recognition of his efforts during the past year.
Najm’s battalion conducted more than 1,000 counter-insurgency missions between Aug. 5, 2005 and Jan. 14, 2006. His battalion was the first Iraqi battalion to assume independent battle space in the region.
Najm explained the medal was a reflection of his soldiers’ dedication and performance.
“It is not just for me, but in recognition of the hard work of the whole battalion,” Najm said. “Our success is a result of good training, especially from the Marines.”
Najm viewed the award as recognition for achieving a benchmark of success. Still, he planned for greater accomplishments from the battalion.
“I want to expand our operating area, increase our patrols and work on conducting intel-driven operations to go after specific targets,” Najm said. “We will continue to serve the Iraqi people.”
The brigade awarded two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals to Iraqi soldiers, but this was the first Navy Commendation Medal to be awarded.
“It symbolizes a successful partnership and the fact that this Iraqi army leader is admired by servicemembers from two nations,” Anderson explained. “In short, it means the Iraqi army is succeeding.”
Marines from RCT-5 are currently partnered with the 2nd and 4th Brigades from the 1st Iraqi Army Division, headquartered in Habbinyah, Iraq. The Iraqi Division is partnered with the I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.