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Marines help Iraqi soldiers prepare to drive

16 Jun 2006 | Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva

Don’t expect to see Iraqi soldiers tearing up mud bogs anytime soon, but they’re proving to be a quick study with their new uparmored humvees.

Nearly 20 Iraqi Army soldiers from across Fallujah wrapped up a four-day humvee licensing course here, recently. It’s the same course given to Marines, minus driving under night vision goggles. The Iraqi soldiers – or jundi – showed they’re naturals when it comes to man-handling the heavy, wide and powerful four-wheeled drive war wagons.

“They caught on pretty quick,” said Cpl. Peter A. Caro, a 22-year-old assigned to Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 5. “They asked a lot of questions, a lot of ‘what if’-type questions. They were pretty attentive.”

And aggressive too. 

“They were pushing each other out of the way to get their turn to drive,” said Caro, from Riverside, Calif. “They all wanted their turn.”

Caro put the Iraqi soldiers through the paces. He taught them about the humvee, from bumper-to-bumper. They’ll be doing more than just kicking the tires. They were instructed on preventive maintenance and biannual and annual service checks. They’ll be changing their own oil and bleeding their own brake lines. 

“We also taught them how to drive off-road terrain, the dynamics of the humvee and vehicle recoveries,” he said.

For their part, the soldiers loved the throaty diesel engines. They took pride in their ride and spoke glowingly of their new all-terrain capability.

“This has been one of the best exercises,” said Iraqi Cpl. Falah Hassan Haneed. “We knew it before, but we never got to exercise it.”

Many of the jundi already had experience driving tricky vehicles and handling big engines. Nearly every hand went up when they were asked if they drove anything bigger than a humvee before. Turns out, most drove long-haul trailers and even a few handled heavy construction equipment. In fact, most were chosen to attend the humvee familiarization course because of their previous driving and mechanical experience. They’ll be the experts back in their own units.

Still, nothing compared to gripping the steering wheel, mashing the gas pedal and tearing through the sand with their new humvees, they said.

“My favorite part was driving down into the ditch,” said Iraqi Cpl. Kifah Muttardi Shumbera. “When we went down, we couldn’t see anything but the ground. That was fun.”

Still, while they said the humvee was fairly simple to learn to drive, they had a tough time negotiating through tight spots because of the vehicle’s width. 

“Sometimes, they got overconfident,” Caro explained. “They would misjudge how wide the vehicle was.”

It wasn’t a mistake that a new Marine driver wouldn’t make, though.

The jundi will pass their new-found skills along to fellow soldiers in each of their units, getting each jundi ready to hop into the driver’s seat and take the wheel. For them, driving their chocolate-chip painted humvees – complete with Iraqi flag – is an esteemed opportunity.

“People respond because it looks strong,” Haneed added.