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Reserve Marines train next generation of Iraqi soldiers

By Capt. Paul L. Greenberg | | March 2, 2009

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The Marines of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 8, based in Harrisburg, Pa., conducted the last mission of their 7-month tour in Iraq Feb. 23. 

CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq -- The Reserve Marines spent the day teaching actions on enemy contact and fire and movement techniques to a company of young Iraqi soldiers at H3 airfield, which is home to the 3rd Battalion, 29th Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division.

The Iraqi soldiers watched as the Marines modeled the movement techniques, shouting verbal commands, and rushing across the terrain with classic Marine Corps enthusiasm.

When it was the Iraqis’ turn, they executed with equal motivation and skill.

“They’re going to be one-hundred percent good,” said Capt. Salem Mahmud Ahmed, the Iraqi company commander, brimming with pride as his soldiers practiced bounding forward across the lunar-like surface, advancing toward a notional enemy. 

The soldiers, mostly ranging in age from 17-23, recently completed a two-month boot camp and are still learning the fundamentals of infantry tactics, said Ahmed. 

Most of their daily routine consists of physical training, patrolling, land navigation and weapons function and maintenance.

Ahmed, who has spent 16 of his 40 years in the Iraqi Army, explained that even though their AK-47 rifles are older than many of the troops who carry them, this new generation of soldiers has both the training and resolve to maintain security in this remote region of western Al Anbar province.

“It’s amazing.  The squad leaders are doing their jobs and the soldiers are responding to their leadership.  It shows we’ve accomplished a lot here,” said Sgt. Gerson Duran, the Company E police sergeant.

Duran, who is on his third tour in Iraq, explained that the training was also excellent experience for the junior Marines in his company who are not only learning how to teach, but are also forming friendships with their Iraqi counterparts. 

“The courage and commitment I’ve seen in these guys over the past months, it’s amazing,” said Duran.  “They deserve a lot of credit.”

Overseeing all the training was Staff Sgt. James Gray, an active duty Marine artilleryman with Military Transition Team 3-29.  Gray and his team have lived and worked with the Iraqis for the past three months. They invited the troops from Company E to come out to H3 to provide the Iraqi troops with a different perspective on training.

“They [Company E Marines] are an outside source,” explained Gray.  “They are infantrymen.  This is their job, their area of expertise.  Also, it’s another angle of influence; a different methodology.  This way, the Iraqis can choose what works best for them.”

The Reserve Marines of Company E are scheduled to retrograde from their current base of operations at Camp Korean Village to Al Asad Air Base in early March.  After a brief transition period in California, they will fly back to their home training center in Harrisburg in April and demobilize, returning to their civilian lives and careers.  

For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/iimeffwd.


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