AR RAMADI, Iraq -- During a recent patrol through the city here, Marines from 2nd Platoon, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment and soldiers from the local Iraqi Army teamed up to fine tune the tactics that the IA will need when they take responsibility for the city.
As opposed to previous combined patrols, the Marines took more of a hands-off approach allowing the IA soldiers to plan and execute it. Instead of mixing themselves into the IA squads and providing direct support, the Marines took up security positions and monitored the IA progress, said 2nd Lt. Johnathan D. Reed, the platoon commander for 2nd Platoon.
“Today’s basic mission was to ensure that the IA have the navigational skills required to do a patrol on their own,” said the 26-year-old from Midland, Mich. “While we were maintaining security, the IA were supposed to gain information, disrupt the enemy and practice the skills that they will need when they don’t have our help anymore.”
During the last two months, the IA have proven themselves able and eager learners and picked up on the basics of patrolling and searching the neighborhoods here. However, the major stumbling block for the IA now is the ability of the Iraqi soldiers to navigate the streets correctly with nothing more than a map.
“I think today they did really good,” he said. “The average Iraqi soldier still needs work on their navigational skills, but overall the leadership has the skills to navigate correctly and that is translating into success during our patrols.”
Although not perfect yet, the IA has come a long way in only two months of training. When Company I began training the IA, they could barely conduct a small group patrol while fully integrated with the Marines. Now, with very little help, the IA is taking on larger missions with less support.
“They are really progressing quickly,” he said. “When we first got here, we started working with small squads of IA who couldn’t conduct patrols. Now, we have entire companies who operate on their own, independent of us. They are learning their lessons quickly; our job now is to prepare them for the stress of actual combat.”
In order to prepare the IA for the stress and unpredictability of combat, the Marines will continue to escort them out on actual patrols where the chance of taking fire is always present.
“We are going to be there to help them out if they need it, but they need more contact with the enemy, more experience with combat before they will be fully ready to take over the city, I think,” said Reed. “They have the skill set. Now it needs to be applied in a stressful situation.”