AL ASAD, Iraq --
Iraqi Army soldiers vying to become part of an elite Iraqi special forces unit trained here with Marines from Regimental Combat Team 5 in a course in advanced infantry tactics Oct. 27 - Nov. 9.
More than 100 Iraqi Army soldiers from various locations in Iraq, handpicked by their leaders, participated in the course, which encompassed 12 training days.
“This is much better than how we normally train,” said Ali Hussein, an infantryman in the Iraqi Army. “We’ve practiced more of the techniques that will help us. This is the best way.”
Before tackling advanced techniques, Marines reinforced the soldiers’ training in basic formations, hand-and-arm signals and weapons carries. Then the soldiers learned how to cordon off improvised explosive devices, how to conduct military operations in urban terrain tactics and how to cross danger zones while patrolling.
“They’ve been showing vast improvements since day one,” said Sgt. Jeffrey R. Kurek, 22, Iraqi Security Forces liaison with RCT-5 from Oak Forest, Ill. “Most of them are highly motivated, so that helps us as instructors since we can see they’re getting it.”
The Iraqi troops trained in repetition, so that the drills would become second nature to them when they actually use them outside of training.
“When they go out on real missions, they will remember how to do it,” said Alaa Hussein Hashem, a platoon commander with the Iraqi Army, while observing his soldiers training. “They have to practice a lot to retain the knowledge.”
“I’ve liked everything we’ve trained on, like foot patrols and securing areas,” said Husam Rasem, an infantryman with the Iraqi Army. “It helped practicing over and over.”
Even though much of the material was new to the soldiers, they have no lack of confidence in their own abilities.
“I have no doubts we’ll do very well,” Hussein said. “We’re getting better step by step, and when it gets to be the real situation, we’ll do it 100 percent.”
Though most of the soldiers say they are picking everything up with ease, they also recognize they’re only as good as the soldier next to them.
“We cannot do this by ourselves, so teamwork is important,” Rasem said. “If someone messes up, the others are there to help out and correct him.”
The lessons learned by the Iraqi soldiers will help the country’s military not only by having individuals trained in the techniques taught by the Marines, but also in the ability of these Iraqi solders to lead others within the Iraqi Army and to train them in turn.
“I volunteered for the Iraqi Army to secure my hometown and provide protection for my people,” said Rasem about his reason for volunteering for the Army. “I want to better myself, so I’m excited to get this new training and help others.”
The Iraqi soldiers will go back to their units and, through their example, pass on the knowledge they learned with the Marines during the recent training.