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Photo by Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.

3/4 evaluates Iraqi Army performance

14 May 2005 | Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.

A recent operation conducted by soldiers of the Iraqi Army and Marines of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, served a dual purpose for the joint force. While the main purpose of the operation was to assert a presence inside the city, it also served as a practical evaluation of the training received by Iraqi forces here. Teams of instructors with the battalion accompanied the joint force during a cordon and knock operation to evaluate their performance and prepare for future instruction. “We were taking note of their abilities, so we’ll know what to cover when we resume classes,” said Pfc. Lee A. Calkins, a 19-year-old squad automatic weapon gunner with Company I. Since the arrival of battalion in January, Marines have worked with Iraqi forces to train them in security and stabilization operations in the city. Three of the battalion’s infantry companies have a nearly equal sized Iraqi force to work with and train on a daily basis. During the operation, Marines from each company evaluated the soldiers’ performance in a variety of areas. “We were looking to see if they performed what we’ve taught them,” said Lance Cpl. Kelly D. Flinn, a 21-year-old team leader with Company I, “. . . to make sure they paid attention to details.” The Marines of the battalion have conducted classes and practical application on patrolling, providing security, searching and a variety of other basic infantry skills, according to Flinn, a native of Schoolcraft, Mich. The evaluation of training goes well beyond that of a soldier’s individual skill however, the Iraqi units were also critiqued on the effectiveness of their leaders and units as a whole, according to Capt. Sean K. Butler, the 36-year-old future plans officer for the battalion. As the operation moved forward, the Iraqi forces received positive evaluations of their improvement on every level. “They did really well, but you can always critique,” said Calkins, a native of Rolla, Mo., “We just noticed some little things we can help them with.” The operation also marked the first test of Iraqi forces at a battalion level here. Iraqi commanders had an equal hand in the planning and deployment of forces in the operation. “They’ve shown a lot of growth, a lot of learning has occurred,” said Butler, a native of Mt. Shasta, Calif. “But you can’t master the planning process in one operation.” With a firm grasp of where to focus training, the Marines with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines will continue to work with and train local Iraqi forces for the remainder of the deployment.