FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Less than a decade ago, few Iraqis would have envisioned their troubled homeland blossoming into a democratic nation.
Approximately two years after Coalition boots first hit the ground here, the country continues progressing toward becoming a safe and secure place for all of its citizens to live.
But it’s not through the presence of Coalition troops that this endeavor will be accomplished. Rather, lasting peace is achieved through the efforts of the nation’s own security forces, and the individual courage of the Iraqi men in its ranks.
Sons of Iraqi, like Shaheed Header Raheem, risk their lives daily manning the city’s entry control points and patrolling the streets alongside U.S. Marines.
As they perform their missions, Aareef (Sgt.) Raheem, his officers and fellow noncommissioned officers also train the Army’s recruits. These recruits are the future of Iraq’s military.
The Iraqi Army’s 1st and 2nd Battalions, 2nd Brigade, with the assistance of Marines with 1st Battalion, 6th Marines joined forces April 10 to begin conducting a 12-day-long training program, known as “Lion” training. Under this program, Iraqi NCOs and officers work under Marine supervision to teach recruits topics such as enhanced AK-47 assault rifle marksmanship skills, first aid in combat, and basic map and compass reading skills.
According to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kenneth R. Silvers, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment’s “Gunner,” the marksmanship portion of the curriculum teaches Iraqi soldiers how to shoot accurately from various different firing positions.
Silvers explained that in situations not meriting use of deadly force, Iraqi soldiers must know how to shoot to disable, rather that kill, a threat. Precise shooting also helps prevent bystander casualties and collateral damage, he added.
“We’ve done similar training before, but this new training’s focus is different and better,” stated Iraqi Maj. Waleed Khiled, one of the troop’s commanders. “It focuses more on the distance between the soldiers and the targets, something we hadn’t really done before.”
Khiled referred to how his soldiers learn to adjust their sights to shoot accurately.
Raheem added that these are valuable lessons his troops are learning, particularly those on marksmanship and infantry patrol tactics.
“The Marines helped teach us hand signals, how to get into formations (on patrols), and a lot about marksmanship,” he continued. “Their lessons are very accurate. Without their help, we wouldn’t be able to teach everything.”
He said these skills will be useful for his troops “as they enter houses filled with terrorists and walk through the city streets.”
Raheem referred to his troops’ new knowledge on Marine Close Quarter Battle tactics, which teaches them how to clear rooms and operate as a team in tight spaces.
Additionally, soldiers put in hours of study time inside classrooms and atop bleachers, studying first aid, land navigation, and military tradition.
They learn skills such as how to stop profuse bleeding by applying tourniquets and common first aid treatment for gunshot wounds and shrapnel injuries they may suffer while combating insurgents.
“With the help of the Marines and Iraqi commanders, we’ve also been able to get useful study books,” Raheem said.
Classroom education is coupled with practical application, as troops run through drills and performance evaluations to display their concept mastery.
After successfully passing these tests, the soldiers graduate from their recruit training. They are then released to different infantry companies in Fallujah to provide security and stability for their fellow citizens.
Raheem said it’s imperative that his soldiers learn their course curriculum as quickly as possible.
“After this training, they (new soldiers) must go into Fallujah’s streets,” stated Raheem. “They must learn this (course material) now, so that they can depend on each other and watch each other’s backs out there.”
For now, students and teachers alike are enjoying working with their American brothers-in-arms and looking forward to graduation.
“We express our thanks to the friendly American troops,” stated Raheem. “We consider them as brothers.”
“The American’s capability is very high, and they’re teaching us that capability to give us great benefit,” stated Jundi (Pvt.) Amar Aaman Abdullah Shmil. “We all look forward to succeeding in training and patrolling the streets. I am very happy to protect Iraq from terrorists.”