AR RAMADI, Iraq -- One of the biggest challenges, and key factors in creating a stable Iraqi state is helping to create and train a national army that can protect and uphold the principles of freedom that Coalition Forces is fighting.
To help provide a quality training regime, and to help organize efforts by coalition forces to create Iraqi led and trained soldiers, the Military Transition Team was created. While starting off slowly with much publicized recruiting troubles and retention issues, the MITT teams have since organized a fighting force that will be able to protect Iraq’s domestic interests, said 2nd Lt. Erik Keim, a logistics advisor with the MITT team based at Camp Ramadi.
“I’ve been working with the Iraqi’s for five months now, and have seen a huge improvement out of them,” said the Casper, Wyo., native. “We are getting the (Iraqi Security Forces) ready for the next step in their evolution which is autonomy.”
The recent University of Wyoming graduate volunteered to be part of the MITT team so he could come to Iraq, experience what life was like here and make a difference before returning to his normal unit back in the states.
“My unit was just getting back from Iraq and wasn’t going to leave for more than a year from when I got there,” he said. “I wanted some experience before I deployed with my battalion and this opportunity came up.”
Although challenging at times, Keim likes being able to say he made a difference while in Iraq, especially with his work in the recent constitutional referendum vote. One of the platoons Keim worked with at Camp Ramadi was in charge of providing security and maintaining order at one polling sites in Ar Ramadi and he came along to supervise and observe the ISF setting up and running the site.
“We did an exercise about a month ago, where each Iraqi company set up a strong point, did day and night patrols, handled peaceful and angry crowd control situations, and handled things like car bombers and suicide bomber attacks,” said Keim. “Our companies did very well in those exercises. We also did a polling situation where they had to search people quickly and effectively and get them through the polls. It was a lot like what they had to go through here.”
The day before the elections, the ISF workers set up the site, reinforcing windows and doors with sand bags, setting up voting stations inside the building and maintaining security positions around the facility. Their work allowed the Marines of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment to maintain a cordon and stay out of the election process, further exemplifying to the Iraqi people that their ISF is making huge strides forward.
“Everything we do here they are watching us, but it feels good to know we are making a difference,” he said. “Almost on a daily basis we are reminded that we are the tip of the spear. Preparing the Iraqi people to handle their own security is a main effort for us being here. It’s challenging but I actually enjoy it. When this war is over, I will know I had a direct impact on helping this country.”