Al Taqaddum, Iraq --
AL TAQADDUM AIR BASE, Iraq – It was an arid and wind-torn scene when Marines Task Force Taqaddum set off outside the wire in armored Humvees and mine-resistant ambush protected assault vehicles May 2 to 3, 2016. Their mission was to advise and assist Iraqi army soldiers with the 8th Iraqi Army Division in counter improvised explosive device techniques.
The mood was tense as Marines made their way to the 8th IAD’s headquarters, near which sightings of militia groups was reported days prior. After the drive down a road littered with splintered vehicles and gnarled vehicular armor from previous conflicts, the Marines arrived at their destination unscathed.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Morgan, an explosive ordnance disposal officer assigned to TFTQ, was the training facilitator and took provisional steps to ensure ISF training was relevant and applicable for their continuing fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. He conveyed that although IEDs aren’t a new threat to ISF, it’s important to reiterate the basics and key concepts.
“In the past we’ve seen the effectiveness and diversity of (improvised explosive devices) throughout these areas of conflict; the key here is to make sure they understand the many dangers that come in dealing with such a highly saturated area,” said Morgan.
Reiterating key concepts was Morgan and his team’s goal for today. The Marines parked their vehicles inside a high-walled compound and were promptly greeted by ISF soldiers. The day’s training included IED recognition, from IEDs hidden in trees or vegetation to ones that are buried or even booby-trapped in a building – with special attention directed to signs that may indicate possible IED placement. In addition, Morgan and his Marines taught their Iraqi counterparts’ offensive tactics in the disarming and disposal of explosive charges, in addition to planning and execution measures that ensure success.
With ISIL so close in proximity to their training location – mere miles away – the gravity of the situation at hand reflected on the faces of ISF soldiers when given information on new tactics ISIL is using.
The ISF soldiers made it clear through the course of the afternoon that they were very eager to learn and implement techniques to better secure the battlefield and as one soldier said, “take back our country from these cowards and murderers,” referring to ISIL fighters.
Marines assigned to TFTQ will continue to support the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve building partner capacity mission to increase the military capacity of Iraqi security forces as they continue their fight against ISIL.