AL ASAD, Iraq --
Every Marine is a rifleman, first and foremost. Regardless of military occupational specialty, proficiency with the M-16 rifle is mandatory for all who have earned the title. Why? Because infantryman or administration clerk, the enemy doesn’t discriminate. He’ll kill you just the same.
It’s this very mindset Marines from 2nd Platoon, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, hoped to instill in their Iraqi Army counterparts during a recent week-long training package here.
“We wanted to do our part in handing over responsibility of this area back to the Iraqis,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Bellville, the course’s senior instructor.
Nine IA soldiers with 2nd Brigade, 7th IA Division, participated in a close-quarter combat class. They learned various CQC tactics and techniques, including: room-clearing procedures, mechanical breaching and detainee handling.
“It’s similar to a SWAT team,” explained Bellville, a native of Anchorage, Alaska. “Basically, we taught them how to enter small structures and tactically clear the area.”
Bellville and his Marines went through a similar course before deploying, but their version lasted upwards of one month.
“We would’ve made the course longer and more in-depth, but our platoon still has missions to support,” Bellville said. “What the IA’s learned here was simply a foundation for them to build upon and pass along to their fellow soldiers.”
In addition to CQC, the course also gave participants the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the M-16A2 service rifle.
“The M-16 is much easier to handle than the AK-47,” said Chief Warrant Officer Emad Majeed Eesa, one of the nine IA soldiers who attended the course. “In comparison, it’s lighter and more accurate.”
Students spent a portion of each day at the firing range, learning how to properly handle a Marine’s best friend.
“The rifle is your lifeline,” explained Emad, “and you have to treat it accordingly – with respect. It could save your life one day.”
According to a recent Associated Press report, the Iraqi government plans to purchase at least 100,000 U.S. made M-16 and M-4 assault rifles for its Army to replace the Russian designed AK-47. Having successfully completed the course, Emad and the rest of his classmates are already ahead of the game.
“In my 21 years of service, this is probably the best training I’ve ever had,” Emad said. “I’ve been on missions before, but I’m more confident now in the abilities of both myself and my men. I’m very excited about the knowledge I’ve absorbed.”
Sgt. Jeromy L. Adair, one of the course’s instructors, was pleasantly surprised at just how eager the IA soldiers were to learn the material.
“This group responded very well to the training,” said Adair, a native of Amarillo, Texas. “Not only did they want to know how things were done, they wanted to know why. Motivation is key in the learning process, and these guys had it.”
Unlike some of the other instructors, this was Adair’s first experience with teaching IA soldiers.
“Other than the language barrier, it wasn’t much different from working with new Marines,” Adair said. “Some of my guys had the same bad habits at first. It’s only a matter of practice.”
According to Adair, being part of this training package was one of the most productive things he’s done since arriving in-country.
“This [area of operation] is dying down,” Adair explained. “The need for our particular skills isn’t as widespread as it used to be. But while we’re still here, this is exactly the type of stuff we should be doing.”
4th Recon is scheduled to return home soon, but Adair hopes the unit replacing them will continue-on with the work they’ve started.
“In a short time, these guys came together as a team,” Adair said. “They have a genuine interest in progressing to the point where they can operate on their own. If nothing else, this proves to everyone back home it IS possible.”