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FALLUJAH, Iraq - Sgt. Jose Martins, chief instructor for 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment's Iraqi Security Forces training cadre, frisks fellow instructor, Pfc. Philip Pepper, as he demonstrates proper personnel searching procedures to Iraqi soldiers during a combat leaders course here. The 26-year-old Queens Village, N.Y. native and his seven teammates school dozens of Iraqi soldiers and policemen every month on topics such as first aid in combat, urban war fighting tactics, and weapons handling skills.

Photo by Cpl Mike Escobar

New Yorker and team help ISF mold Iraq's future;

17 Aug 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar

Sergeant Jose Martins has a long history of helping shape 'average Joes' into tomorrow's war fighting leaders.  From the 18-year-old Marine recruits he taught how to shoot, to the Iraqi soldiers he trained into drill sergeants, this 26-year-old Queens Village, N.Y., native's battlefield expertise has enriched many an aspiring warrior.

"I was a PMI (primary marksmanship instructor) at Parris Island for three years," explained the 1997 Martin Van Buren High School graduate, recalling his days teaching future Marines in South Carolina’s famed recruit depot, Parris Island, the fundamentals of shooting.  "Last year, I also taught Iraqi soldiers infantry squad leader tactics and ran them through a drill instructor training course."

Now, he's back to doing what he loves: taking fledgling fighters under his wing and molding them into well-trained warriors.

In early April, approximately three weeks after his unit arrived here, Martins was appointed chief instructor of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment's eight-man Iraqi Security Forces training cadre.  Their mission: train Iraq's military and police forces to completely take charge of their nation's security.

Twice every month, Martins' Marines offer a five-day-long combat leaders course, where they teach the Iraqi forces topics such as weapons handling skills, first aid in combat, and urban war fighting tactics.

As chief instructor, Martins oversees his trainers and keeps accountability of the ISF students, along with teaching a few portions of the course himself.

"I teach the detainee handling class," Martins stated.  "I show soldiers the proper procedures for apprehending people they see as threats.  They see the correct way to search people, and even how to take them down to the ground if they start acting up."

Martins warns the soldiers to use only the necessary amount of force, however.

Iraqi soldiers and policemen under Saddam Hussein's regime handled their citizens roughly, so cadre Marines teach the new security forces how to be 'firm but fair' to earn the trust of the populace.

"We tell them to be polite and not treat suspects like criminals," Martins explained.

But when the Iraqi soldiers must take down a terrorist in a firefight, the soldiers may fall back on another skill Martins empowered them with: one shot, one kill marksmanship abilities.

Many of Iraq's new troops have little experience shooting the AK-47 assault rifles they carry on patrols, so Martins and his Marines teach them proper firing positions and target sighting skills.

Soldiers learn how to quickly shoot targets at close range and rapidly reload their weapons, similar to the way they do if engaged in a firefight within Fallujah.

By the end of the course, the students have learned how to integrate all of the concepts they have learned to plan and execute an independent operation.  The soldiers and policemen then return to their parent commands to resume conducting counterinsurgency operations.

Thus far, Martins' cadre has taught approximately 600 troops these basic infantry skills and plans to instruct several more during their time left in Iraq.

"All of this training will help us provide security to this area," stated Capt. Ahmad Tariq Muhammad, an officer with Iraq's Public Order Brigade paramilitary police force who attended the cadre's training course.  "We see how the strongest army in the world performs, and we try to imitate what they do.  We will use what we've learned to protect our citizens and their property."

Martins is only one man in a country still ravaged by terror and warfare, but he and his close-knit group of infantrymen are turning the tide on the insurgency with every class of combat leaders they train.  Their commitment to this mission remains rock-steady.

"I love doing what we're doing to help the ISF get their country back on its feet," Martins stated.