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An Iraqi boy holds his pencils and looks to see what else the Iraqi Army will be giving at an elementary school in Khasfah, Iraq, Oct. 21. Several organizations back in the states sent school supplies to the Marines with the Baghdadi Military in Transition Team, which is assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Iraqi Brigade, 7th Iraqi Division. The Marines then turned them over to the IA to be distributed to schools.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Paul Torres

Marines step back as Iraqi Army steps up

22 Oct 2008 | Lance Cpl. Paul Torres

The goal of Coalition forces has always been to hand the country of Iraq back to the people.

Marines with the Military in Transition Team 0723, which is assigned to 3rd Battalion, 27th Iraqi Brigade, 7th Iraqi Division, are working with the Iraqi Army to coordinate operations as they now play a more prominent role in Iraqi security.

On a recent operation, the MITT supplied the IA with school supplies to be distributed to the students of an elementary school in Khasfah, Iraq.

“This is a rural area that doesn't have a lot of supplies,” said 1st Lt. David A. Keltner, 27, from Tucson, Ariz., who is the company advisor for the MITT.  “We arranged for small organizations back in the states to send us school supplies and we gave them to the IA. The people don't get a lot of interaction with the IA outside of patrols, so this gives the IA another way to get to know the people.”

Military in Transition Team 0723 is the seventh team to work with the 27th Iraqi Brigade, and as the Iraqis are becoming more and more proficient, the MITT is seeing its role decrease.

“This is the last MITT to be embedded at the battalion level,” said Keltner. “We will still have a team at the brigade level, but we were essentially here to work ourselves out of a job and they are at the point where they can function on their own.”

Military in Transition Team 0723 has acted as a link between Iraqi and Coalition forces to help them coordinate operations.

“We are here to train, mentor and advise the Iraqi Army in operations,” said Maj. Thomas E. Elders, 32, from Swedesboro, N.J., who is the commanding officer for the MITT 0723.  “We have basically built on what the previous MITTs have accomplished. Our main role is to act as a liaison between the Iraqi forces and Coalition forces to give them access to assets they don't have yet.  For example, if something happens and they need mortars or air support, we are able to facilitate that.”

Military in Transition Team 0723 is able to advise the Iraqis on how to use what assets they have for when they will no longer have Coalition forces to rely on.

“They do a great job and my guys are learning a lot from the Marines,” said Col. Wiheed Abd Al-Mihmediwe, commanding officer, Iraqi 3rd Bn., who has been with the Iraqi military for 23 years. “We have had a good relationship with the MITT and they have been a great help with logistical planning.”

The experience the Marines bring to the table has helped the speedy development of the IA forces and has allowed the IA to develop their own support where possible

“We have really emphasized them tapping into the IA assets instead of relying on Coalition forces,” said Elders. “For example if they find a cache now, instead of calling us for explosive ordinance disposal, they can call the Iraqi bomb disposal (unit) to come and dispose of it.”

As the threat of the insurgency decreases, the IA is now focusing on maintaining security and rebuilding Iraq.

“The next big step is for them to move to a permanent location where they can do normal, conventional training,” said Keltner. “Right now, they have only been trained on how to fight an insurgency and they are now pulling back and consolidating to train for a more conventional security role.”
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