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01/16/2006 01:35:56 AM;01/16/2006 01:56:10 AM;01/16/2006 02:10:17 AM

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn

2/6 trains first Iraqi Army squad leader course

11 Jan 2006 | Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn

Throughout history, it has been proven that small units of well-led men are more important than state-of-the-art equipment, excellent staff work, or brilliant generals. These things only serve to make the infantryman’s job easier. The Marine Corps has always recognized this fact and has always focused on infantry training for small unit leaders.

Seven Marines and one corpsman from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, are responsible for instilling that tradition into the Iraqi Army. They are the instructors for the Iraqi Army Squad Leaders Course, a 10-day training cycle designed to improve the leadership of the Iraqi Army at a small unit level.

Nineteen Iraqi soldiers make up the first squad leader course the battalion has conducted. The other courses that have been taught are the Combat Leaders Course, AK Rifle Course, Basic Machine Gun Course, and Combat Lifesaver Course.

As of Dec. 1, 2005, the battalion’s training cadre had trained 560 Iraqi soldiers. For this course, the instructors taught it right out of the book, the same one they learned from.

“The techniques are the same throughout the Marine Corps,” said Lance Cpl. David R. Bailey, a 21-year-old Americus, Ga., native. “We teach the basics right out of the book. We don’t want to stray from the book and teach things that only 2/6 does because we want any unit to be able to come in and be able to work with these guys because they know their tactics.”

The instructors credit the students for being focused and committed to learning the various subjects they are taught.

“We teach basic offensive and defensive tactics, patrolling, how to receive and give an order, marksmanship principles and how to be a good non-commissioned officer,” said Sgt. Joshua A. Wilson, a 27-year-old Chillicothe, Ohio, native. “This is the best class we have put together, what with everything we are teaching, plus we have a good training environment so we get a lot of good practical application.”

Practical application is when the students take what they just learned in the classroom and immediately apply it under the watchful eyes of their instructors.

“They learn a lot from practical application,” said Bailey. “I am the (military operations in urban terrain) instructor teaching urban patrolling. We explain in classes what to do, then make them go through the tape house and walk through the streets. We use practical application for every class.”

“If you just watch them move, you can tell they have learned,” said Cpl. Eric W. Simpkins, a 21-year-old Rising Sun, Md., native. “From the day we started until now, you can see changes from what they have learned being applied out here.”

Most of the students in the course already have experience dealing with the instructors and their teaching methods.

“This class is better than many; most have been through the Combat Leaders Course. We are just expanding on what they already know,” said Lance Cpl. John B. Weber. “This is a very good course. We are teaching the Iraqi Army everything they need to know to maintain the safety of Iraqis. I know they are going to teach it to their soldiers, I just hope it sticks.”

In the end, how the new squad leaders pass these lessons on to their soldiers will be the defining test for the success of the course.

“You have to teach them so they can teach others,” said Sgt. Mark P. Taylor, a 21-year-old Millville, N.J., native. “I’m enjoying doing it; I feel like I am doing something positive.

That feeling is echoed throughout the training cadre. They are having fun training the soldiers who will one day assume responsibility for Iraq.