Photo Information

CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq - Sergeant Peter K. McKinney, the chief instructor for Personal Security Detail Development course, demonstrates how the aim of a pistol is thrown off by anticipating the discharge of the weapon.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy S. Edwards

Courses, Trainers, Facilities: What it takes to ‘train the trainers’

20 Dec 2005 | Staff Sgt. Timothy S. Edwards

If Iraq is to move forward in forming a democratic government that provides its citizens with a secure nation, it must build well-trained professional security forces such as police, border patrols and military. But how does a fledging government provide for the training of such essential organizations for its country? The Marines and sailors serving at the 2nd Marine Division Training Center here answered that bill. “Back in the late summer of last year, when we were notified that we would be coming over to Iraq, I started thinking about what would be the best role for the division gunner,” said Chief Warrant Officer–5 Terry L. Walker who is the 2nd Marine Division Gunner and is responsible for the overall readiness and training of the Marines in the division. “It was my idea that a guy in my position could have a contribution in training the Iraqi fighting forces. I thought it would be best if we set up a program to teach the Iraqi soldiers the fundamentals of marksmanship, zeroing procedures, weapons handling and safety of the weapon systems they themselves would be using.” Even with an idea in mind how do you create a training regiment for weapons not part of your normal armament? The gunner had the perfect tool for the job; the Marksmanship Training Unit. The MTU is a specialized group of Marines stationed out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., who are tasked with instructing their fellow Marines in marksmanship training and creating specialized training for those preparing to deploy. “I tasked the Marksmanship Training Unit that works for me to start collecting all the information they could on the weapon systems that the Iraqi Army uses and writing programs of instruction,” Walker said. “We started doing things like investigating through the internet how to zero the front site of the AK-47. Believe it or not, a lot of people will tell you that you can’t adjust the front site of the AK-47. We set about finding a front site adjustment tool and we did. I convinced the division to buy a pool of them to use out here. “Those are the type of things we would look at.” As the Marines with the MTU collected the needed information to put together a solid training package for the Iraq Security Forces, Walker was en route to Iraq as part of the division’s advance party to assist in preparing for the transfer of authority of the Al Anbar province from 1st Marine Division to the 2nd. “I came over in January and my team followed me over in February,” Walker explained. “At the time I didn’t have a clear vision of having a training center in Habbaniyah. My idea was to create Mobile Training Teams to go out and help were we could with training the Iraqi soldiers with those skills we possessed.” It was about this time that fate stepped in and provided for the creation of the DTC. “Upon arriving, I was asked to sit in on an operational planning conference to discuss training the Iraqi Army. While I was there, we discussed the creation of regional training centers for the Iraqi Army and Habbaniyah had been designated as one. It was also designated as the home of the 1st Iraqi Division, which would be the first division of the Iraqi Army to stand up in the Al Anbar province,” he said. “I took a trip up here and found the building we are currently in. I gained approval from the commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, who was still in charge, to build a division training center in concurrence with the 2nd Marine Division’s G-3 and Maj. Gen. Huck (the 2nd Marine Division’s commanding general). We all agreed that it would nicely fit into the commanding general’s vision on how we wanted to focus on the training of Iraqi soldier. It would be a nucleus for information the Military Transition Teams could use to support their missions.” It was from these beginnings that the DTC was stood up in May and, for the first time, the Iraqi Security Forces began learning the basics of marksmanship. Just like any other training center though, the DTC is only as good as its instructors, its facilities and its course curriculum. Currently, the DTC is operated by the gunner, nine Marines from the MTU, six Marines from Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, a Navy Corpsmen and a civilian interpreter. The Marines from the MTU brought a wide range of experience to the table for training the Iraqi Forces. These Marines were Close Quarters Battle instructors from the Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team, marksmanship instructors from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Reconnaissance Marines, Scout Snipers and basic infantry Marines with multiple combat deployments. These Marines formed the nucleus of the DTC with direct support from the Comm. Marines. “Although the Comm. Marines further the mission by maintaining communications between the division headquarters at Camp Blue Diamond (in Ar, Ramadi),” said Walker. “I also needed them to help prepare the center to be occupied and get it up and running. I also asked them if they would like to be instructors and assistant instructors. To a man they all jumped at the chance. It is just what they wanted.” Soon, the Comm. Marines found themselves as deep in instructing the Iraqi Forces as they were working the communications plan for the DTC. “The Marines here take care of all the communications needs of the DTC and then go straight into working with the Iraqi soldiers. They do everything from teaching lessons to troop handling,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas F. Miller, DTC data chief and senior Comm. Marine. Due to the size of the staff, each service member finds himself filling extra duties beyond both communications and instructing. “When we moved up here and occupied the building, we refurbished it. It was all done by these Marines,” explained Walker. “We have a lot invested in this facility but it isn’t monetary. It is the sweat and ingenuity of the Marines. “All the Marines have secondary requirements. For instance, you don’t run a facility this size without having individuals in charge of vehicles, grounds, the building, air conditioning systems. We didn’t go out and get special people to do it. We capitalized on the skills that we have.” The Marines on the staff serve as anything from carpenter to mechanics to plumbers. The facility is virtually self-contained. “I think the key that Marines have to understand is that every Marine brings to the fight hidden qualities outside of their (job field),” said Walker. “Exploit the capability each Marine brings. He might have come off a farm and knows how to work on cars or his dad may have been a carpenter and worked with him.” These skills, team work and dedication created a solid facility from which to train Iraq’s security forces. This facility includes two class rooms, a fully operational armory, a communications shop, a woodshop and a 300 meter range with access to two 50 meter ranges and 2 other 300 meter ranges. The main classroom seats 30 students comfortably, has a stage to instruct from, computer and projection systems to display presentations and instructions and displays with charts of many of the weapon systems common to Iraq. The Armory, which is manned by two Marines, one from the MTU and one from Comm., contains the DTC’s 30 AK-47s, 12 PKM light machine guns, 12 RPK medium machine guns, an assortment of captured pistols, one captured RPG and all of the service members’ personal weapons and optics. When Gunner Walker and the Marines from the MTU arrived on deck at Camp Blue Diamond, they put out a call for confiscated Iraqi weapons to fill the armory. It wasn’t long before they were coming in. “The original weapons we had in our armory were confiscated by the 1st Marine Division. We cleaned them up, fixed them and put them to use,” said Staff Sgt. Arthur Abrego, the DTC’s operations chief. “Now when caches are located, if we need something they send them to us. “We have received some that were pretty jacked up in the past. These we use as parts to fix the others or to fix the weapons the students bring with them if they go down.” The armory is not complete though. As the DTC expands its courses, the Marines hope to expand their armory as well to include RPGs, DShK-38 heavy machine gun and scoped rifles. “As the Iraqi Security Forces mature, the scope of the weapons training they need will expand. These will be the weapon systems of a light infantry force such as mortars, RPGs and scoped rifles for designated marksman,” Walker explained. “First they have to master the weapons handling tactics and procedures of an infantry thought. The Marine Corps creed, “Every Marine a Rifleman” would be a good creed for Iraq to adopt for its soldiers.” When it comes to the communications shop, it is just shy of what would be used for an entire company with both secured and unsecured internet access, phone lines, signal channel radios and various secure communication systems. “This is new to anything I have ever seen,” said Miller. “This is a company size set up minus the servers and switchboard.” This setup is what keeps the DTC in contact with not only the division headquarters but the MiTT and MTT in the field as well as the adjacent commands in the area. Iraqi soldiers must be able to practice the skills that they learn at a school. To do this the DTC has a 300 meter range and four other ranges to choose from. Originally, there was a test fire range into an old hangar and a 25 meter zero range. Prior to standing up the DTC, a 300 meter range was commissioned and two more 300 meter ranges and two 50 meter ranges were scheduled for later construction, which was finished Dec. 1. According to Walker, the ranges were created for two reasons. First the DTC, Iraqi Army’s 1st Division and the Coalitions Forces here would need it and second, the Regional Training Center would need it. What good is a range though without targets to engage? The DTC has a self-contained wood shop to build the targets and frames needed for these ranges. To accomplish this, the shop contains a basic set of rechargeable power saws and wood and target facings that they can order through the military supply system. “We use plywood, 2-by-4’s and other materials that we can find or order through the battalion supply,” Abrego explained. “Some small stuff comes from other nearby bases and the Army, who we have provide training for and men for operations.” The production of these targets, like the running for the rest of the DTC, is the responsibility of all the Marines assigned to the center. Combined the Marines and the facility and you have the perfect setting for instructing the Iraqi security forces. The question is what you instruct them in. According to Walker, their ‘bread and butter’ is the Iraqi Small Arms Weapons Instructor Course. This course is designed to produce competent instructors capable of training their fellow soldiers in basic weapons handling, marksmanship and safety. “We will get much further toward meeting our objects and goals of the commanding general of having a trained Iraqi fighting force by first training instructors that can go to their units and practice safety procedures, marksmanship training and things like that.” The ISAWIC course is not all that the DTC offers though. The DTC serves as a capability for the commanding general to influence the type and direction of training within his battle space. “It is not just the Iraqi Army that needs training,” Walker said. “We have conducted training for numerous agencies within the Iraqi Security Forces. We have worked a lot with the Iraqi Police. Iraqi police officers are engaged in a life and death struggle in some of these areas and they need more infantry related training. They come to us for this specialized training.” This training includes Personal Security Detail Development, Fundamentals of Marksmanship, Individual Weapon Systems, Enhanced Marksmanship and Security Operations course. The DTC also offers needs-based courses and MTTs that can be sent to units unable to come to the center for training. The PSDD introduces the students to considerations they have to make when developing a plan and course of action. It includes instruction in security formations, defensive vehicle driving and enhanced marksmanship training. “We do PSDD because it is a challenge to keep the leadership of the ISF alive,” Walker said. “We train their personal security detachments and quick reaction forces.” Before attending the PSDD course, all students must first attend ISAWIC. This is due to the lack of previous marksmanship, weapons handling and safety training of the Iraqi Security Forces. Like ISAWIC, all of these courses are available for both Iraqi and Coalition Force. For special requests and MTT missions, the DTC has the capability to put together in-depth, well-thought out periods of instruction. These POIs are then presented by Marines selected for their skills and experience pertaining to the training. As the Marines of the DTC begin to near the end of their tour in Iraq they continue to push forward in training Iraqi Forces and do whatever it takes to ensure the next team is prepared to go in whatever direction the next commands vision takes them. “All of us want the same thing; beat the insurgents, maintain the stability and security of the nation and win the Global War on Terrorism,” Walker said. He continued to say that the Marines of the DTC have exceeded his expectations of success toward that overall goal. They have all had a tremendous impact on the mission in 2nd Marine Division’s battle space. “I am humbled by the amount of work and dedication to a cause that these guys have brought to the fight,” he stated. “It is easy being the man in charge when you have Marines like this working for you.”