Photo Information

FALLUJAH, Iraq - Cpl. Nilton F. Ramos, course instructor from Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, aims his AK-47 alongside an Iraqi soldier to demonstrate proper technique. 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment is helping Iraqi Security Forces conduct a "Lion Training" program to teach new Iraqi army recruits fundamentals of marksmanship, first aid in combat, and military customs and courtesies.

Photo by Cpl. Mike Escobar

ISF, 1/6 training turns cubs into roaring lions

10 Apr 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar

It is 6 a.m. and sweat is already dripping from their faces as they push through their physical fitness training well before sunrise. Hours later, a platoon of recruits take careful aim on their targets as they send 7.62 caliber rounds downrange. At the same time other platoons receive instruction on lifesaving first aid and land navigation techniques.If this sounds like a day of Marine Corps boot camp, it should, but instead of young American men and women these recruits are from Iraq.Marines with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment joined forces with the Iraqi Army’s 1st and 2nd Battalions, 2nd Brigade here April 10 to begin training the Iraqi military’s newest recruits.Marines supervise and mentor the Iraqi instructors as they deliver a comprehensive 12-day training package, named “Lion” training, covering topics such as basic marksmanship, first aid procedures in combat, and infantry tactics.According to 1st Lt. Dave Godwin, Weapons Company’s executive officer, senior ranking Iraqi soldiers are teaching the course curriculum that Iraqi Security Forces devised while Marines supervise the instruction.“We’re helping to train approximately 250 soldiers based here in Fallujah,” the 31-year-old Macon, Ga. native stated. “The overall objective is to turn the ISF into a functioning, cohesive force so they can take over this AO (area of operation) once we leave.”The 2001 University of Colorado graduate added that ISF personnel are already highly active in conducting security and stability operations here. They are working alongside Marines to patrol the streets and man vehicle and personnel entry control points to search for insurgents and illegal arms. However, this training package will increase their proficiency in conducting such missions.Two battalions of Iraqi soldiers, comprised of eight platoons, rotate through different training phases. The soldiers receive two days worth of training in each phase.One phase of training involves shooting an AK-47 assault rifle live-fire range.“The marksmanship training on the range here teaches them basic weapons safety rules, shooting positions and maintenance procedures,” Godwin explained. “It’s a lot like the Marine Corps’ EMP course (Enhanced Marksmanship Program, training that teaches Marines how to quickly shoot targets at close range and rapidly reload their weapons.)“The program teaches them the basics of marksmanship and how to shoot in different positions,” added Chief Warrant Officer-2 Kenneth R. Silvers, the battalion gunner. “The purpose is to make them more proficient for escalation of force scenarios.”Silvers explained that in situations not meriting use of deadly force, Iraqi soldiers must know how to shoot to disable, rather than to kill. Precise shooting also helps prevent bystander casualties and collateral damage, he added.In addition to helping teach weapons proficiency and safety skills, Iraqi noncommissioned and commissioned officers instruct students on basic military customs and courtesies, map reading, and first aid courses.“It’s similar to our combat lifesaver’s course,” Godwin said referring to the Marine Corps program that teaches personnel how to perform quick medical actions in combat, such as stopping profuse bleeding and applying tourniquets.An Iraqi military doctor works alongside the battalion’s medical personnel to cover these combat first aid topics.Iraqi instructors also teach their soldiers patrol tactics to include moving through city streets, urban warfare tactics, and close quarter battle skills, such as clearing rooms.“We will use this during our patrols to protect people from the terrorists,” stated Iraqi Pvt. Amar Aaman Abdullah Shmil, a soldier with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade. “(This training) is very good; we benefit greatly from it.”To make their training package even more effective, ISF personnel are trained by the NCOs and officers who will command them in real-world operations. This helps the soldiers accustom themselves to their instructors’ leadership styles.After the end of the 12-day training evolution, the instructors and Marines will test the students’ concept mastery via written and practical application tests. Once the class graduates, the soldiers will join the operational forces conducting missions in Fallujah.According to Godwin, the Marines and ISF also plan to continue conducting periodic marksmanship refresher courses.“Once we start this, the soldiers we’ve helped train will become the instructors,” he said. “(The battalion) will support this training until we leave here or operations don’t allow it.”Godwin further said that the program’s goal is to “train the trainers.” Trainees today will become instructors for future Iraqi recruits.Iraqi commanders said they believe this method is effective.“(The soldiers’) performance today was very good,” stated Iraqi Maj. Waleed Khiled, a soldier from Baghdad. “We’ve done similar training before, but this new training’s focus is different and better. It prepares my soldiers for patrols, and it’s very helpful for them.”U.S. troops will continue to help train the future of Iraq and overcome any challenges to do so.“Of course the language barrier gets in the way sometimes, but we make up for it by using lots of signals and body language, and our interpreters,” said Cpl. Chris Vargas, a course instructor. “They ask lots of questions, and they’re motivated and eager to learn. So far, they’ve been really fast learners and very cooperative.”