AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Marines from 1st Platoon, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment and soldiers from the local Iraqi Army unit recently conducted combined combat patrols through the streets here, Jan. 13 and 14.
The patrols, which are part of non-stop training the Marines are conducting with the IA, was planned, coordinated and executed almost exclusively by the Iraqi commanders; it is an example how far the IA has come in their training, said 2nd Lt. James Colvin, 1st Platoon commander.
“I think the patrols went really well,” he said. “They have a grasp of the basics now and they pretty much do everything on their own. We are letting them do more of the mission planning and are doing more hands-off training, allowing their leadership to take over. Basically, all we do is provide security for them and make sure they do everything correctly.”
While the goal of the patrols was for the IA to sweep through neighborhoods, searching homes and conducting on-spot-interviews on their own, the Marines were on hand to maintain security and critique the IA’s patrolling skills.
“We’ve been working with them for two months now,” said Seaman Justin Goodwin, a corpsman with Company I. “They are showing improvements, but they do have things they need to work on. Their land navigation skills need improvement, but that just takes experience.”
An example was immediately apparent after setting out on the first patrol. When the units dismounted from their trucks, the Marines immediately began setting up security so that the IA could begin their patrol. However, the IA soldiers immediately took a wrong turn and began patrolling down the wrong street.
While easily corrected, the mistake illustrates an area in need of improvement for the IA soldiers and is something the Marines and Iraqi soldiers are working diligently to improve. Similar problems with communications gear and basic patrolling procedures also took time to smooth out, but the IA soldiers are motivated by their patriotism, loyalty to fellow Iraqis and are eager to improve and constantly work on their shortfalls. This explains the constant and often surprising advances made by the soldiers in such a short amount of time.
“It’s a big difference from when we first got here,” Goodwin said. “It’s becoming more rewarding in the long term now that we can see them actually execute what we’ve taught them. The day-to-day mistakes are frustrating, but now that we can see them conduct platoon sized operations, it makes it worthwhile.”
Overall, the last two months proved to be quite the learning experience for both the IA soldiers and the Marines. Despite the language and cultural barriers that have made the process difficult, both groups have learned from each other and are taking those lessons to the battlefield.
“They are a lot better at interacting with people than us because they speak the same language,” said Colvin. “We can use that to our advantage when we are out looking for information. On the other hand, we have the military skills and knowledge they need to learn before they can take over this area. But, they are taking more pride in being Iraqi soldiers and their leaders are taking over. I wish we had more time to work with them.”