AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- With the ever-present threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, having a strong and capable fighting force to defeat them is a priority. The Iraqi army’s 7th Division, with the help of Combined Joint Task Force—Operation Inherent Resolve’s multination coalition forces, are at the forefront of that fight.
The building partner capacity mission, based out of Al Asad Air Base, is one of the locations where training efforts focus on refining, educating and prepare Iraqi security forces to transform into an independent military, capable of defeating ISIL and securing their country’s freedom.
“The ultimate goal is to have Iraqis training Iraqis,” said Danish army Maj. Christian Friis, Task Force Al Asad BPC officer in charge. “We want to make sure that they are capable of self sustainment. We also want to instill in them a warrior ethos that leaves a deep impression of what good soldiering is. If we can leave them with a feeling of pride and confidence that perpetuates a proactive and professional military culture, then we have accomplished our goal.”
Al Asad BPC site has the staff and resources to successfully accommodate and train two Iraqi battalions at a time. For enlisted Iraqi soldiers, the training primarily focuses on marksmanship fundamentals, urban combat strategies and counter-IED techniques.
For officers, the training consists of operations planning, platoon tactics and tactical decision making. Generally, soldiers enrolled in the training are new to the military and are relatively untrained. Even so, these soldiers are hand-picked by their parent units to attend training to make them combat ready and capable of instructing others.
“Patience is key to our success,” said Friis. “We need to understand that this is a totally different culture than the one many of us are accustomed to. Many of the Iraqis lack the experience and military mindset that has become second nature to coalition members. This means that in order for us to achieve our goals we must be patient, but also culturally sensitive.”
Although quality training is vital to the success of the Iraqi military, it isn’t the only necessary ingredient for building a strong nation. Through the many hours of hands-on training, the coalition forces not only improve the 7th Division’s ability to fight, they also develop strong and lasting professional bonds.
“Knowing that they have coalition support is important for their success when it is almost guaranteed that they soon will be on the front lines, fighting,” said Maj. Scott Benninghoff, the BPC sustainment lead for Task Force Al Asad. “It’s also about increasing and solidifying the bond between Iraq and the coalition nations as a whole. A strong and stable Iraq with strong ties to coalition nations promotes long-term security of all of the nations involved. These are the future leaders of Iraq and hopefully they will remember, with fondness, the training experiences and the shared hardships at Al Asad.”
Experienced instructors, a vigorous training curriculum and newly cemented bonds are just the beginning of a long process of stabilizing the region. The BPC mission is not designed to be a quick-fix solution.
“The Iraqis have a strong desire to be trained,” said Friis. “We just have to provide the conditions that will allow for that growth. We can and have had a meaningful impact on their lives. [We’ve] provided the tools that will allow them to protect and defend their home, and ultimately made our own homes safer.”