AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq --
Dust whipped through the air, blinding anyone looking ahead as the Super Stallions touched down and opened their back hatches. Iraqi commandos poured out in single formation, running to establish two separate 360-degree cordons.
Adding the finishing touch to a month-long Multi National Forces- West training package, Iraqi Commandos with the 7th Iraqi Army Division were taught how to properly embark and disembark CH-53E helicopters April 9, 2009 at the Camp Ripper landing zone, Camp Ripper, Iraq. Instruction was given by Reconnaissance Marines with 2nd platoon, Company B, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8 on the training evolution.
“It was the first time I’ve ever been in a chopper,” said Iraqi Army Sgt. Omar Muhammed Salem, an Iraqi Army commando with 1st platoon, 2nd Battalion, 7th Iraqi Army Division.
Out of the entire company of Iraqi commandos, only four raised their hands when asked if any had ever flown in a helicopter prior to the training flights. Out of those four, none had ever flown as Iraqi commandos.
“A lot of this is introduction to more advanced (training),” said 1st Lt. Scott Alexander, 2nd platoon commander, Company B, 1st Recon.
Although the commandos practiced only rudimentary air assault movements today, each separate company will eventually train in more advanced special forces tactics.
“The more advanced training will give them more ability to go out with us for bi-lateral missions,” Alexander said.
The commandos have successfully completed operations on par with regular infantrymen, but these men are being educated in the art of reconnaissance and special operations.
“Right now there are no Iraqi units that match Recon’s capabilities,” Alexander said. “They’re a capable infantry unit but we want to build them up to our caliber.”
This month-long package is only the beginning. Military Transition Team 07, Multi National Force - West, plans on furthering commando education with the help from the Recon Marines. With instructors like the Marines and eager students like the Iraqi commandos, it will be a goal completed.
“The MiTT team wants Iraqi special forces at a level where they can be self-sufficient,” said Robert Wise, a special operations foreign internal defense advisor for MiTT-7.
This effort is a joint-decision, derived from the Iraqi commandos’ suggestions for training and MiTT-7 requested instruction from 1st Recon.
“All of this training is Iraqi requested,” Alexander said. “They also asked for advanced training.”
In the near future, the Iraqi commandos and reconnaissance Marines will refine helicopter operations and aerial assaults, along with sniper training.
“They want to get into sniper operations,” Alexander said. “They have actual sniper teams but we’re going to give them the training and discipline expected from Marine snipers.”
The Iraqi commandos have a bright future ahead of them and along with the tutelage given by the reconnaissance Marines, training will intensify but they will be refined into a more capable fighting force.
For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/iimeffwd.