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Iraqi soldiers train to keep roads safe

9 Aug 2008 | Cpl. Shawn Coolman

Protecting Coalition forces from hazards on the roads in Iraq is an enormous task that is undertaken everyday, but now it has become a little easier.

Marines with Route Clearance Platoon, Company A, Third Combat Engineer Battalion and with the Iraqi Army Seventh Infantry Division Military Transition Team have been training Iraqi Army engineer soldiers to effectively conduct independent route clearance missions throughout Iraq.  

The culmination of approximately five months of training has yielded a mission-ready platoon of Iraqi Army route clearance soldiers prepared to comb the vast desert of Iraq, helping keep the roads safe.  

“It (the IA Route Clearance Platoon) takes a lot of pressure off our shoulders,” said Sgt. Xiong Yang, 23, a combat engineer, from Aurora, Ill. “We can (potentially) concentrate on coalition patrol areas and they can concentrate on their own patrol areas.”

This platoon of IA route clearance soldiers can now apply knowledge gained in previous courses with the abilities they learned from the Marines here to perform their mission with a high degree of skill.  

“The Seventh Infantry Division Engineers are performing well,” said Iraq Army Maj. Ihssan Jabar Murhish, engineer deputy director for the 7th ID. “In the last six months, they have conducted operations in Ninewah, Nasiriyah, Diyala, and Basrah, while supporting the units in Anbar. 

“The unit has increased in size from a company to a regiment, and as more soldiers join the unit they will be able to support more operations,” added Ihssan. “This instruction (taught by Company A, 3rd CEB) has been good for the soldiers because the soldiers have been going out and applying all they have learned in the previous courses.” 

Throughout the course, the Marine trainers prepared practical application scenarios to test the IA soldiers on their ability to react to unexpected situations.

“The practical application the Marines provided ties in all the previous training, and once the equipment arrives we will have the resident knowledge and ability to train on our own,” said Ihssan. “I have to observe a mission…, but I am confident in the IA Engineers’ ability to accomplish whatever task they are given.”

Although the soldiers have undertaken many hours of hands-on training and practical application, they still are awaiting equipment of their own to begin operations.

“The (Iraqi Army soldiers) are mission capable and can start (missions) once they receive their own vehicles,” said 1st Lt. Thomas J. Felts, 26, engineer officer for Iraqi Army Seventh Infantry Military Transition Team here. 

The Iraqi Army soldiers are proud of what they have accomplished and are ready to offer their support on the roads of Anbar province once their equipment arrives.

“I’ll be very proud when we start patrolling and the people know what we are doing here,” said Iraqi Army Pfc. Waisam Rashash Mohammed, 22, an explosive ordnance technician with three years experience in the army, through an interpreter.