BORDER FORT NINE, Iraq --
Smugglers don’t waste time when they cross from Syria into Iraq.
“We need a force that can move fast and be mobile in order to interdict anything that happens along the border,” said 1st Lt. Andrew R. Scheuer, infantry adviser, Border Transition Team 4222.
Marines identified the problem, and a group of Iraqi policemen answered the call.
An elite platoon of “Desert Wolves” from the 2nd Iraqi Border Police Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Division, began training to be the border’s first Quick Reaction Force Oct. 22.
“The primary mission of the QRF is to react to any unauthorized activity within their (area of operations),” said Cpl. Sherman C. Smith, infantry adviser.
The main activity the QRF will respond to is illegal drug and arms smuggling, said Smith, 23, Cooper Landing, Alaska. The QRF will also be a provisional infantry force for any immediate insurgent threat along the border towns and neighborhoods, to include improvised explosive device attacks and small arms skirmishes.
“We’re teaching them so they can protect their country and stop smuggling in of harmful weapons,” Smith said. He said the battalion commander hand picked each QRF member, and that all of them demonstrated the traits needed to become a competent force in readiness.
“They have a strong desire to move fast, have intensity, be professional and have an aggressive attitude,” Smith said. Aggression is good, but in the realm of public service, it has to be a controlled aggression.
Classes start with basics. Hand-to-hand combat and detainee ethics provide another less harmful option than the trigger finger. Marines don’t ignore the possibility of deadly engagements, so the QRF’s marksmanship and weapons familiarization improve with exercises from the Corps’ Combat Marksmanship Program.
The CMP is a short-distance marksmanship exercise that incorporates firing on the move, target acquisition and accurate round placement. The course is more for the officers’ personal protection than sustained military operations, and Marines always reinforce proper escalation of force procedures.
“Every class we teach, we try to emphasize what they can and cannot do in situations. They’re still going to have to remember to use restraint because information isn’t perfect, and they could potentially hurt innocent people if they go out like a military force,” said Scheuer.
Information passes from fort to fort quickly, between a mix of radios and personal cellular phones, so communication between units along the border is one of the Wolves’ strengths.
Marines focus not on the speed of information, but rather the accuracy of the response.
Students learn map reading and navigation skills, as well as patrolling skills, so that they can find suspects once the call comes.
“We’ll run drills,” said Scheuer. “We’ll wait until they are all relaxed, we’ll run a scenario at them where they’ll have to prepare, load up and move to a designated point.”
Scheuer said the drill, aside from making land navigation second nature, trains the policemen to be ready at a moments’ notice. A debrief will accompany every drill, where Marines and Iraqi leaders can adjust any discrepancies or deficiencies.
One of the final classes covers how to set up hides and ambushes, so, rather than solely reacting, the wolves can add a proactive dimension to their capabilities. Once the Marines finish training the QRF, the QRF keeps right on training.
“It’s six training days, but the training never stops, I’m going to train them as much as they can, then I am going to try and get them to train themselves,” Smith said. “So the Iraqis themselves instead of us can react quickly and solve the problem.”
Marines will spend the final day throwing random scenarios at the team. A border police QRF has to be ready to encounter anything from a stray sheep herder, to a full-on assault on one of the border forts, said Scheuer.
“The end state is that the Iraqis should have a competently trained QRF that’s able to react in the (area of operations) whenever, wherever and however they’re needed,” said Scheuer.
So the next time a smuggler tries to cross the border with illegal contraband, he may not run into a group of Marines, but an Iraqi QRF of desert wolves, always ready and on the prowl.