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HADITHAH DAM, AL ANBAR, IRAQ (August 13, 2005) - Army Capt. Greg T. Brown, Iraqi Col. Muhammed, Lt. Col. Lionel B. Urquhart, and an Arabic translator pour over the details of a map. The Iraqi Intervention Forces do not patrol on their own yet. Matched up squad for squad with Marines, they provide extra boots on the ground with a natural understanding of Arabic language and culture.

Photo by Lance Corporal Marc Fencil

ISF arrive at dam, a look to the future

17 Aug 2005 | Lance Cpl. Marc Fencil

The first wave of Iraqi Security Forces arrived here marking a large step toward the transition of local control from coalition forces to the country’s own forces.

Although the Iraqi troops do not conduct missions independently, the soldiers conduct daily joint patrols with Marines from 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment.

“More training for the officers is necessary before the Iraqis will conduct operations independent of the Marines,” said Army Capt. Greg T. Brown, a 15-year veteran responsible for advising the ISF. 

The integration of the Iraqis into Marine patrols presented Brown and the Marines challenges because Iraqi officers involved themselves in every facet of military operations during the Saddam regime, a stark contrast to the small-unit leadership that is the foundation of the Marine Corps. 

“This top down leadership is the greatest challenge in shaping these forces into an effective fighting force,” explained 43-year-old Brown.  “The lowest individuals in the platoon should know the details.” 

A formidable hurdle is the language barrier between Marines and Iraqi soldiers.   Only some of the Iraqi squad leaders speak English, making it difficult to effectively communicate between forces.

Despite these challenges, the Iraqi presence is regarded as a long-awaited asset for 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines.  These soldiers put more than just extra boots on the ground; they also bring a natural understanding of Arabic and the culture.  Translators are used for everything from the effective resolution of property claims to interaction with the local population on patrols. 

Besides conquering the language barrier between coalition forces and the Iraqi people, the ISF are able to pick up on intelligence clues that Marines may overlook. 

“Their ability to pick up foreign dialects is a real bonus.  They can tell right away whether a certain individual belongs in the area,” said Brown, a native of Hammond, Ind. 

Marines and Iraqis are currently paired up squad for squad for the ISF to observe and emulate Marine tactics.  Approximately half of the Iraqi soldiers served in the armed forces during Saddam’s rule, but the remainder have no military training.  Recruits in the ISF complete a four-week training period in the town of Taiji for their version of basic training.

While it is obvious to even the casual observer that much more work is needed before becoming self-sufficient, the ISF has been experiencing both isolated and widespread success.  Recently, Iraqi forces joined forces with Marines in the city of Hit during Operation Sword and now live and work in the city providing their citizens a permanent Iraqi soldier and Marine presence.

Marines are aware that the Iraqis will eventually assume complete responsibility for their country’s security but until then, they will continue to provide critical support and aid on operations with Marines as they continue improving their combat skills. 

“Already, we are seeing an increase in the information that locals are bringing forth as a result of having soldiers who can effectively communicate with the people,” said Brown.  “Before, the locals just gave us the stone face.

“They are here for good and to show the locals that soon there will be a permanent face, and that will be of the Iraqi Security Forces,” Brown continued.