TREBIL, Iraq --
Veteran Marines from the Port of Entry Transition Team (POETT) here shared their knowledge and experience Oct. 13 by training an Iraqi personal security detail.
The PSD’s primary mission is to ensure the safety of the port deputy director and any visiting dignitaries here.
The students were from the Iraqi “commandos,” a specially trained group of border police who work directly for the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior.
Gunnery Sgt. Bruce Henderson, 40, is currently the POETT’s training chief and acting operations officer from San Simon, Ariz. His experience includes 20 years in the Marine Corps. He holds a black belt in Marine Corps Martial Arts Program and has completed two combat tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan since 2002.
As the lead instructor for the PSD training, Henderson, along with other Marines and an assistant from the U.S. State Department, supervised the Iraqis as they practiced exiting and getting into their vehicles, escorting a notional “president” from his vehicle into a secure meeting area and providing 360-degree security.
“These guys are motivated. They showed us a lot and did a good job with (getting out of vehicles), (getting into vehicles) and remaining in proper formations,” said Henderson, who explained that this was the first time the PSD had received this type of specialized training.
As is characteristic with the Iraqi troops here, Staff Sergeant Hamza Haider Afthalla, a 38-year-old native of al-Kut who has been training with Coaltion forces since 2005, expressed his appreciation for the Marines’ expertise.
“The bottom line is that we are the force protection for the port,” said Afthalla through an interpreter. “Unless we are professional and competent, we will fail. Protecting leaders is a big responsibility. That is why we need this extensive training. My thanks go out to the United States and the Marine transition team here. It is like a brotherhood with the Marines.”
Warrant Officer Hashim Fakri Hasan, 36, is the senior member of the PSD currently on duty here. A Najaf native and Iraqi Army veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, Hasan expressed confidence in his team’s performance.
“These guys are training hard and they’re motivated not just to protect our leaders, but to protect each other and our country,” said Hasan. “It’s not 100 percent safe out here. We have to be on watch for al-Qaeda, as they are trying to destroy our country, and our job is to stop them.”
With five more months of working with the Iraqi Security Forces ahead of him, Henderson is optimistic about the potential of the PSD and eager to begin working on fundamental Marine Corps skills with them, such as rifle and pistol marksmanship and martial arts.
“They just need to stay in the mindset that practice makes perfect, and they are going to be highly skilled warriors,” added Henderson.