HABBANIYAH, Iraq – -- With brand new up-armored humvees and help from the Marines from 1st Iraqi Army Division Military Transition Team, the Iraqi army continues to demonstrate growth in areas such as independent operations and logistics.
Military Transition Teams are responsible for the mentoring and development of the Iraqi Security Forces. They are tasked with advising the Iraqi military in areas of counterinsurgency operations, intelligence gathering, marksmanship, and other military skills crucial to providing security here.
The Marines with 1st IA Division MiTT, now six months through their year-long deployment, have watched the IA’s develop into a more self-reliant unit. “The 1st Iraqi Army Division is the first Iraqi division to assume any battle space in Al Anbar,” said Capt. Ryan Welken, the intelligence surveillance reconnaissance company military advisor.
“When we went on our first patrol, back in March, the majority of them (Iraqi soldiers) did not know how to carry their weapons; they had no computers, no combat operations center and no vehicles to properly protect themselves from the threat of improvised explosive devices,” said Welken.
Recently, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense purchased brand new armored humvees for the Iraqi Security Forces. The Iraqi soldiers conducted mounted patrols within weeks of receiving the vehicles, demonstrating a show-in-force. “We could really see the difference in their demeanor when they would go on patrol,” said Welken.
Now Iraqis provide their own convoy security, quick reaction forces and vehicle medevacs.
Recently, an Iraqi soldier with a line company was killed by a suicide vehicle borne IED at a vehicle control point.
The Iraqi army responded to the attack and handled all medevac procedures when the Iraqi soldier was killed at the vehicle checkpoint.
“Following the VBIED attack, the jundi delivered the (soldier) to the Division Medical Clinic aboard Camp Habbaniyah," said Welken. “The soldiers took all appropriate steps, carried out all medevac procedures, and delivered their wounded comrade to Taqaddum surgical without any assistance from the MiTT. They used all Iraqi equipment.”
Although Welken realizes the Division has a long way to go before completely carrying out autonomous operations, there are definitely moments where he feels like a "proud papa. They are figuring things out and making the difference on their own,” he said.
In addition to new humvees, the 1st Iraqi Army division headquarters has its own computers and communications equipment that are being used in their combat operations center. The IA COC monitors, tracks and coordinates efforts with subordinate units throughout the 1st IA battle space 24-hours a day.
On a recent trip to a vehicle check point south of Camp Habbaniyah, Col. Juan Ayala, the senior advisor to1st IA Division, accompanied Brigadier Gen. Salah, the deputy commanding general of the 1st IA Division, to pay a surprise visit to his troops manning the VCP.
According to Ayala, the VCP had been attacked by two VBIEDs and has received sniper fire that has generated concerns from the local community.
Iraqi police assisted in the security of the VCP upon the general’s arrival. Salah and Ayala immediately assessed the assertiveness and readiness of the troops. They checked to see if the soldiers were wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment, asked questions about suspicious activity and ensured the proper number of soldiers were present.
Before departing the area, Salah invited Ayala to visit a local school just off the main road. “This was an unplanned meeting, which is part of the Division's ongoing efforts to engage with the citizens of the communities throughout their battlespace,” said Ayala. “The DCG (deputy commanding general) took the opportunity to meet with these school officials and solicit their thoughts on several topics.”
School officials had several concerns which were brought up during the visit to the school.
“The school officials stated that since the VCP was established, security has improved in their community. They were, however, concerned with the location of the VCP as traffic lines form right in front of the school,” said Ayala.
“Overall, the impromptu visit went well. We continue to advise the Iraqi leadership to engage at every opportunity and promote a strong command climate where the treatment of citizens is respectful, dignified and supportive,” said Ayala. He also believes that this type of behavior, in the long run, will bring citizens to the side of the government and Army and discourage them from supporting the insurgency.