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Published:July 17th, 2007 17:35 EST
Iraqi Soldiers participate in first ever advanced infantry course

Iraqi Soldiers participate in first ever advanced infantry course

By SOP newswire

BAGHDAD — Soldiers from 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division participated in the first-ever advanced infantry course, dubbed the "Commando Course," at the Iraqi Army compound in Mahmudiyah, Iraq.


The course, planned and designed by non-commissioned officers of 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., was developed to give the IA Soldiers advanced infantry training skills. The class began July 8 and the Soldiers are scheduled to graduate Aug. 7.

“We thought it would be a great idea to offer something a little more advanced to the (Iraqi troops)," said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Tony Grinston, 2-15 command sergeant major.  “So we developed the Commando Course, which offered advanced training in areas such as marksmanship, physical fitness, map reading, land navigation and troop-leading procedures."

But before the course could start, the NCOs had to resource all the materials and build the obstacles from start to finish.

“We built an obstacle a day," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class John Lindsey, Commando Course head instructor.  “The field that the obstacles are located in what was once covered in weeds that were waist high. We had the engineers come out and level the field so we could use the area as the obstacle course location."

NCOs also built a shoot house and found an area to conduct map reading, land navigation and tactical operations before the course started.

The 25-day course began July 8 after day zero, a day that gauges who will actually be admitted into the course.

“There were 100 Soldiers who originally started, but we lost 56 Soldiers on day zero," Grinston explained. “This is not an easy course, but the students really like it and are excited to be here."

The course, beginning with physical fitness at the break of dawn each day, consists of three phases: weapons, troop-leading procedures and land navigation; advanced combat lifesaving; and air assault operations.

“It is similar to the U.S. Army ranger course," Grinston said of the Commando Course. “Here the Iraqi junior enlisted Soldiers will learn how to conduct missions on their own without the help of any officers."

One IA Soldier, Sgt. Mohammed Kazim, who serves as a squad leader with 4th Battalion, 4-6 IA, is enrolled in the Commando Course.

“Here I have learned how to be mentally and physically tough," he said. “Although the class is fun, it is challenging – especially the obstacle course."

He also spoke of what it was like to go through the course with two of his own Soldiers.

“They will graduate with more experience than they had before – a lot more experience than most IA Soldiers have," Kazim said. “I am proud of them."

The course taught the Soldiers more than skills - it taught discipline.

“Make sure you line your rucksacks up and make sure everything looks alike," Staff Sgt. Vinson Kelley, a Commando Course instructor, said to the Soldiers before they were dismissed from formation.

And that discipline was shown as Iraqi Pvt. Akeel Hamid Abdalrthea, with a perfect haircut and a shaven face, stood at parade rest (a military courtesy) as a senior NCO spoke to him.

“I have learned so much in the course and how important it is to be disciplined and experienced," Adbalrthea said. “But my favorite part of the class was learning marksmanship, especially the different shooting positions."

As part of training, Soldiers participated in a live-fire exercise.

They also developed their own sand tables, a table used to show how a mission will be conducted, before going on mock missions.

“They write and carry out an entire operational order by themselves," Grinston said. “And you can tell they are learning because in their sand tables they used cigarette butts to mark spots where packs of dogs hang out."

Marking the dogs’ location was important because their barking would give away the Soldiers’ position.

“Marking the dogs shows attention to detail," Grinston said. “I would have never thought of that."

One aspect of the course that was a challenge for the Soldiers was map reading because they had to learn American numerals. But with the help of interpreters, the Soldiers learned how to find an eight-digit grid coordinate and use plotted grid coordinates to find land navigation points.

“At first they did not even know how to read a map," Linsey said. “Now they know how to find points."

Lindsey discussed what it is like to instruct the IAs.

“As long as they are here I am happy to help them learn," he said. “I hope these courses will help build confidence within the junior ranks of the Iraqi Army."

One U.S. Soldier said the Commando Course compares well to similar stateside training.

“This course is just as challenging, if not more challenging, than U.S. Army courses that I have been through," said U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Carvel, a 2nd BCT personal security detachment squad leader.   “The Iraqi Soldiers are dealing with hotter temperatures and rougher terrain than traditional U.S. military students deal with. This is not an easy course, but it is the right kind of course."

When the students graduate they will receive a tab, similar to that of the U.S. Army Ranger tab, which says Commando Course in Arabic and English, a certificate of completion and a 2nd BCT coin. The tab has been approved by the 4-6 IA commander to be worn on the IA uniform sleeve. The top student of the course will receive a special gift from the 4-6 IA commander.

The students are scheduled to graduate August 2 at the IAC.

(U.S. Army story by Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs)

Multi-National Corps – Iraq
Public Affairs Office, Camp Victory
APO AE 09342