22 July 2009

On the Ground: U.S. Forces Provide Training, Humanitarian Aid

U.S forces delivered new skills, and hope, to Iraqis in recent training and humanitarian operations, military officials reported.

Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, and the 19/5 Military Transition Team recently provided training to their counterparts from 5th Iraqi Army Division's 19th Brigade.

"Our main goal with these events is to provide these medics with the knowledge they need to save lives," said Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Mackey, a transition team medic. "Beyond the actual training, we are coaching the [Iraqi] brigade's medical leadership in planning and implementing brigade-level training."

Mackey said the soldiers chose a hands-on approach to the training, as opposed to using PowerPoint software presentations.

"The evaluation time consists of a trauma lane with casualty players and wound mock-ups," he said. "[Iraqi soldiers] are not only evaluated on patient treatment, but also how well they apply principles of trauma combat casualty care."

Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Walker, the platoon sergeant for the regiment's medical platoon, is on his second tour in Iraq. He has trained Iraqi medics before, and he noted they've come a long way.

"We know we cannot pull all of the medics out of the fight, so we are going with a 'train-the-trainer' approach, which builds on itself every time we meet, and then we challenge them to take the information to their units and share with their soldiers," Walker said. "So we are not only training these medics, but also encouraging them to 'grow' their [noncommissioned officer] corps as well.

"It is good to see that the Iraqi medics are progressing," he added.

Elsewhere, 21 new Iraqi firefighters concluded their training for the Defense Ministry's Basic Firefighter Course on July 15 with a live-fire exercise and graduation at the National Fire Academy.

The course marks the first time Iraqi instructors have conducted the training without assistance from Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq advisors.

"We need to congratulate the instructors for their accomplishment," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Kane, commanding general for Iraq Training Advisory Mission Air Force. "I'm proud of all of you and the way you have conducted this course."

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Military Academy in Rustamiyah graduated 281 Iraqi army and 86 Iraqi air force cadets July 14 from Basic Officers Commissioning Course 99.

The 12-month commissioning course includes leadership and ethics training, and works to instill the values and standards required of future Iraqi military leaders. The course also covers tactics, weapons training, physical fitness, first-aid, current affairs and geography.

A new officer course that starts in January is designed for cadets to earn university degrees, and will last three years.

NATO Training Mission Iraq has supported the academy since 2005. More than 2,500 cadets have graduated in the past four years.

In humanitarian efforts, soldiers of the Iraqi army's 5th Division and the U.S. 25th Infantry Division's 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team conducted the first humanitarian-aid drop in Diyala province since U.S. combat forces left Iraqi cities June 30.

The July 15 drop lasted nearly seven hours and served hundreds of families in Mujema, a neighborhood in Baqubah. Local residents and Iraqi soldiers unloaded five large trucks filled with about 1,000 bags of rice and flour, 600 bags of sugar and 600 bottles of cooking oil.

In a separate aid mission, soldiers of the 12th Iraqi Army Division and the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, brought bags of food and a message of hope to families July 14 in the Hiteen neighborhood of Hawijah.

"Hiteen has been identified by the Hawijah city council as the poorest area of Hawijah," said Army 1st Lt. Sean Spencer, medical officer for the 1st Battalion. "The food delivery by the [Iraqi security forces] and U.S. military supports Hawijah residents by fulfilling attainable goals, which will make a difference for the people here."

The Iraqi army plans to visit all of the small villages in Kirkuk province, said Army Spc. Andrew Harris, a forward observer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment.

"I think they picked the perfect town for this," Harris said. "We don't really get to travel through [Hiteen] often. But when you come through there and give them food, it makes a big difference."

Eighty of the 165 families in the village received help during the mission, and the Iraqi army is planning to distribute more aid in the near future.

"One bag of food can make a big difference if you're hungry," Harris said.

(Armed Forces Press Service; Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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