CAMP HABBINIYAH, Iraq -- While most service members do their best to avoid road-side bombs or walk in the opposite direction of a known landmine field, a small community of American troops seek such threats head on and are now training their Iraqi counterparts to do the same.
American explosives ordnance disposal technicians are overseeing the development of an EOD company in the Iraqi Army's 1st Division, which is based out of nearby Camp Habbiniyah.
The area surrounding Habbiniyah, where many military commanders believe insurgents transit or stage for attacks in Ramadi and Fallujah, has been a beehive of activity for improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which keep the EOD personnel steadily employed.
The 1st Marine Logistics Group's EOD Company here stays busy responding to 15 - 25 calls daily.
Jeremy, a Navy EOD officer with the joint-service unit, is one of a handful of technicians who, in addition to their primary mission, have been tasked with training Iraqi bomb disposal soldiers.
The Americans are helping the Iraqis refine the skills they need to negate the threat after Coalition Forces leave, said Jeremy, who asked to remain anonymous as EOD personnel are considered high value targets.
The Iraqi Bomb Disposal Company is currently working with the Americans to clean up an ammunition supply point (ASP) last used by Saddam Hussein's regime. Mortars, rockets and various other munitions were strewn about when the bunkers were bombed in the initial invasion. Acres of twisted, rusty metal peppered with live munitions are all that remain.
The ordnance must be cleared from the area to make the ASP safe again for future use.
The American advisors are using a hands-off approach in their training and observation - a sign of the burgeoning ability of the Iraqis to act and operate independently.
For Jeremy, it was a pleasant surprise to find out just how knowledgeable his Iraqi counterparts are.
"These guys are really close to coming on line and taking over their battle space," said Jeremy, as he cleaned a piece of ordnance for later training.
The Iraqis had already received three months of training from American contractors who taught them basic unexploded ordnance and explosive remnants of war reduction, cache disposal and minefield operations. The training gave the soldiers a solid foundation for Jeremy's team to build on.
In the past several weeks, the Americans have been teaching the Iraqis daily while observing their abilities and knowledge.
So far, the results have been positive, Jeremy said. No military unit is perfect and can learn something new from foreign counterparts, which is where the American training is critical to the Iraqi effort in this fight against the insurgency.
"We want to be able to do it on our own and rid the terrorists of their ability (to use explosives)," said Maj. Adnan, the executive officer of the Iraqi company, whose full name is also withheld.
"They have a basic level of training that they execute very well," Jeremy said.
All across Iraq, American infantry units and military police are teaching their Iraqi equivalents, Jeremy said, and "getting their (bomb disposal) personnel trained up is equally as important."
The Iraqis agree with Jeremy that the training has benefited them and is also helping bridge the cultural rift.
"Everybody is learning from each other in this war," said Capt. Aqeel, 2nd Platoon commander of the Iraqi unit.
Aqeel is working side by side with Jeremy as they guide the jundi - junior enlisted Iraqi soldiers - through operations. Every day, he says, he and his men are "taking knowledge from the Americans."
The two officers have quickly become close friends; often laughing like old buddies unhindered by the language barrier and sharing a penchant for having a hands-on approach as they work alongside their enlisted-men .
"The Marines have taken me in like a friend, like a brother," said Aqeel.
"They are soldiers like the rest of us," said Jeremy, as he and Aqeel watched over the jundis.
Both Aqeel and Jeremy are excited about an extensive IED course being developed by the civilian contracting company that initially trained the Iraqis, they said.
The jundis have high hopes they will soon receive this training, they said, which will allow them to conquer IED's, which are responsible for the majority of casualties in Iraq.
Aqeel stood back for a moment and watched his men as they worked industriously under the hot sun for several hours. Moments later, he ordered his men to take a break and drink water.
The season for high temperatures and sand-infused winds is steadily arriving here and the captain ensures the jundis are taken care of just as the soldiers take care of him.
"I have no fear of going out with my soldiers," said an unwavering and proud Aqeel. "I have confidence in their abilities."
While many would expect an underlying fear in a task such as handling explosive ordnance disposal, the Iraqis see only the insurgency.
"Right now, there are a lot of dangerous cities out there. A lot of Americans have died and a lot of Iraqis have died, but the blood is all the same," said Aqeel. "There is not a lot of fear. I do (this job) for the kids of Falluja and Ramadi and all the other dangerous cities."
Although the motivation and patriotism of the jundis is sometimes questioned, the Iraqi soldiers are disdainful of the insurgents.
"We joined the army to kill the terrorists," said Ramdhan, a jundi, as he sifted through a pile of twisted, rusted metal to look for unexploded ordnance. "We're not scared of them and we want them to know that."
Email Cpl. Redding at firstname.lastname@example.org.