Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)
MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — The Iraqi army has historically been top-heavy, giving leadership responsibility to officers and officers alone. Enlisted soldiers were not afforded much responsibility or authority. But the “backbone” of the U.S. Army is the noncommissioned officer corps – charged with leading and caring for the troops and their well-being, while officers plan and execute operations.
To help build the Iraqi Army into a well-oiled and highly functioning force, the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) has worked extensively with the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division to train new NCOs in the soldier and leadership skills necessary for success, graduating a class of about 30 NCOs in a ceremony at the Iraqi Army Compound in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, Feb. 21.
“The principle is the same as in the U.S. Army,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Mahoney, senior enlistedman in the 2nd BCT. “It’s an entry-level course on the fundamentals of being an NCO.
“If the Iraqi leadership will delegate duties and responsibilities to new NCOs, they will become a force multiplier,” said Mahoney.
Training Iraqi soldiers is a critical part of the 2nd BCT’s mission in Iraq, he added.
“Our main emphasis here is to partner with and train Iraqi Security Forces,” said Mahoney. “One of our efforts is to develop the enlisted leadership within the ISF so they can provide better service for the good citizens of Iraq.”
The brigade’s efforts – and those of the Iraqi army leadership – have been bearing fruit.
“The course was ‘too easy,’ said Sgt. Ali Kazam Radban, a new graduate, using a phrase he learned from American Soldiers. “We learned to search cars, read maps, basic maneuvers and mounted and dismounted patrols. Dismounted patrolling and map reading were my favorite parts, because I like learning new things like that, and going out and seeing the surrounding areas is good too, because I’m pretty familiar with this town.”
The course culminated with a two-hour dismounted patrol of the town of Mahmudiyah, as the students put their skills to work securing street corners for their fellow soldiers moving in the market and various neighborhoods.
Sgt. 1st Class John Lindsey, a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., and a military transition team leader, assisted with much of the course.
“They’ve learned techniques in patrolling, inspecting houses and vehicles, and how to teach physical training,” Lindsey explained. “They’ve also had several classes such as first aid, training on different weapons systems like hand grenades, AK-47s, and DShKa machine guns.”
The soldiers were eager to learn for the most part, said Lindsey.
“They’re doing good. (Sgt. Maj. Wessam) Muhammad did an assessment of them,” he said. “Some were having trouble, but the leaders have been working with them, just like in our (American) Warrior Leaders Course.”
Muhammad, the primary instructor for the course, agreed that the students were very successful.
“The soldiers are doing well, of course,” he said. “They’re learning a lot of new information. Before, many soldiers only knew how to kill, and most of those are gone now. The new American skills are helping a great deal. The U.S. Soldiers are giving us a lot of knowledge and skill to our Iraqi soldiers.”
Over 110 Iraqis have graduated from the WLC since the program started, and many are continuing to go to other military courses, learning to be snipers and mechanics.
After the graduation ceremony, where the new NCOs recited the Iraqi NCO creed, the top three graduates were presented coins by Multi-National Corps-Iraq Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Ciotola, a native of Elizabeth, N.J.
“I want this to be a reminder,” Ciotola said through an interpreter, “of your obligation to your country. I want this to be a reminder of your obligation to pass on what you have learned. If you love Iraq, together we will make this the paradise God intended it to be for all people. I want to come here on vacation one day.”
The meaning was not lost on the soldiers.
“I am very proud to be an Iraqi NCO,” Kazam Radban said. “I am very proud the Americans have taught us so much.”