CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- Service members are continuously subjected to various forms of training in preparation for deploying to Iraq prior to leaving the United States. This training is to help prepare them for what they will face while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
What are these same service members to do though when they are in Iraq and are faced with new situations that require training but can’t leave the fight for proper training?
They call on the 2nd Marine Division Training center for support. This support is given in the form of Mobile Training Teams made up of the Division Training Center’s (DTC) instructors.
“The Mobile Training Teams are created to train forces on a specific task when that force is unable to make it to a classroom environment,” said Staff Sgt. Arthur Abrego, the DTC’s Operations Staff Noncommissioned Officer in Charge. “Basically it is taking the classroom to the war fighters who can’t fly in or to a unit that is too big to be trained and housed at the DTC.”
These specialized teams can instruct Coalition and Iraqi Forces in anything from the basic marksmanship course, the designated marksman course and patrolling packages to tailor-made courses on weapons handling, tactics and new weapons systems.
Prior to a team being sent out, a unit must submit a request for training through the 2nd Marine Division Gunner, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Terry L. Walker.
“All training gets thrown to the division gunner and he decides what we are capable of training,” Abrego said. “I don’t think there was anything where we would have said, ‘no we are not training it’ or ‘no we are not qualified to train it.’”
The ability to send MTTs out on such diverse training mission depends on the skill sets possessed by each Marine and their dedication to their craft. The Marines for each MTT sent out are picked individually based on the skill sets they possess that best support the required training.
“We have designated marksmen, a former scout sniper, Force Reconnaissance Marine, primary marksmanship instructors, coaches and close quarters battle instructors out of the Fleet Antiterrorism Security Force,” Abrego said, explaining some of the skill sets within the unit. “So the stuff that we teach isn’t just thrown together. The Marines with the most experience doing it are the best qualified to provide the requested training.”
The experience of the Marines, the mission and the availability due to preset classes determine the number of Marines sent out on an MTT. Generally, they range from three to five Marines.
According to Abrego, the benefit of sending an MTT out to a unit is that they are not getting a standardized course. The Marines on the team use their knowledge and skills, as well as guidance already published, to create a period of instruction that best suits the unit.
“When we went out to Camp Dogwood to train with the Army’s 150th Engineer Battalion, they had requested some scout sniper training,” Abrego said, referring to one such training mission where they made adjustments to fit a unit’s needs. “After assessing their training needs, we determined that all they really needed was a designated marksman course. So we took the designated marksmanship course and the scout sniper information we had and catered it to the mission they needed to accomplish at Camp Dogwood.”
The biggest challenges the MTTs face out at these units are meeting that unit’s timetable and dealing with translation issues.
“Some times we have to meet specific time limits. They may be on a schedule and we have to rely on their translators. Their translators maybe really good but we have been working with ours for months and he betters understands how to adjust the translation to best get the lesson across to the students. We have worked for hours with ours having him translate lessons then explain what it meant literally. Afterward, we would physically demonstrate what we mean so he can help us best explain,” Abrego said.
To date, there have been no complaints about the MTTs that were sent out to provide training. The Marines of the DTC have gone out and shown everyone that they can accomplish any task put before them.
“We have never had a problem with being on our own and getting the mission accomplished,” he said. “Gunner always gets feed back from the units we go out to and it has always been positive.”
Even with the success of the MTTs that were sent out, Abrego believes there are more efficient ways to do things in the future.
“If we have the opportunity to get Marines we could qualify as permanent MTTs and house them here, it would be more efficient. Being able to send four guys on a flight to outlying areas, it would be an advantage for them rather than trying to bring entire units from across the province here for training.”
According to Abrego, the ideal set up would be to have four, five-man teams. These teams main mission would be to go out and assist in training the units in country.
“We have made a big dent in some of the training of how Iraqi soldiers are handling weapons,” Abrego stated. “We also build a bond as teachers and students. You build trust among the Iraqi soldiers. They will come up to you when the see you and shake your hand and thank you for training them.
“You also see them out applying what we taught them and they are correcting their fellow soldiers,” he continued. “That is one of the biggest steps we have seen the soldiers take and what we started off to do out here at the DTC.”