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Airmen advise Iraqi Army reconstruction efforts
KIRKUSH TRAINING BASE, Iraq -- Iraqi army trainees march back to their living quarters after a long day of training here, March 4. The trainees go through five weeks of the type of introductory military training that U.S. servicemembers undergo. The Iraqi training base is co-located with U.S. Forward Operating Base Caldwell, where a mix of U.S. Army and Air Force personnel are deployed to in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)
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Airmen advise Iraqi Army reconstruction efforts

Posted 4/1/2008   Updated 4/1/2008 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

4/1/2008 - BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq  -- U.S. Airmen and Soldiers assigned to Kirkush Military Training Base are working as a team to advise their Iraqi Army counterparts in reconstructing Iraq's army.

A 21-member team assigned to Coalition Army Assistance Transition Team Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq works hand-in-hand daily with the more than 8,000 Iraqi soliders who live at Kirkush.

The Airmen assigned to the team are filling 365-day in-lieu-of taskings, for the U.S. Army to allow Soldiers to be placed in other Army-specific positions.

"If it wasn't for the Air Force [personnel at Kirkush] we wouldn't even have the creek to be up without a paddle," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Garrett Ferreiro, Regional Training Center senior adviser. "This team has supported my team in everything we've tried to do. It helps to have Airmen with specialties my team members don't have."

The goal of both the Airmen and Soldiers of the team is to help the Iraqi army expand its basic training capacity from 3,500 to 5,000 soldiers per iteration, said Air Force Capt. Dustin Creed, senior base engineer adviser. The training lasts for five weeks, with new soldiers reporting for training every eight weeks to Kirkush, the largest Iraqi army basic training location.

The 13 Airmen who are a part of the transition team advise their Iraqi counterparts in support functions, such as communications, civil engineering and base defense, while the team's Soldiers advise the Iraqis on military training. The U.S. Army personnel also oversee the Central Issue Facility, where Iraqi recruits receive their first set of uniforms and other military necessities.

"Normally this would be an [U.S.] Army special forces job to come in and advise the Iraqi army," said Air Force Col. Stephen Ray, Logistics Military Advisory Team senior adviser. "The Air Force has three teams here in Iraq advising them on how to run the base, how to do logistics, vehicle maintenance -- about everything that makes the base run."

Although the U.S. military is advising the Iraqis, the Iraqi army still employs some processes from their previous army that continue to meet their needs.

For example, the U.S. Air Force typically has a central dining facility available to members for all units on the base. In the Iraqi army, each company provides dining facilities for its own soldiers.

"They do surprisingly well," Colonel Ray said. "They went from contracting all their feeding, to each unit feeding their own. It works for them."

Another big part of the transition team's mission is to transfer security responsibilities from the U.S. military back to the Iraqi army.

"To do that, they have to produce enough new jundi [Iraqi soldiers] so they can take over the security for themselves," Colonel Ray said.

"We have an Iraqi division here on base that provides a lot of the security for the southern Diyala province," Colonel Ray said. "Whenever there's a large battle or an IED [improvised explosive device] that affects the Iraqis, there's no doubt they're out there working hard, fighting hard, trying to control the security situation."

Teamwork between both countries' militaries is a key factor in completely returning the base and security mission to the Iraqis.

"The better we do our job at advising, the easier it will be for them to accept the base," Colonel Ray said.

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