CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- More than 300 Iraqi recruits graduated boot camp in a ceremony here Sept. 30.
The Iraqi Army’s newest soldiers went through five weeks of training to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship, urban patrols, search and clear operations, as well as how to make the transition to a military lifestyle.
A national recruiting initiative plans to bring in 30,000 soldiers by May 2007, said Col. Joel P. Garland, the basic combat training liaison officer for Multi-National Force – West.
“The goal is to get up to 1,850 soldiers per class,” said 45-year-old Garland, from Mission Viejo, Calif., who added that a new training cycle will start every six weeks. “The national response (to the recruiting initiative) has been excellent,” he explained. “Camp Habbaniyah will share some of the national pool.”
Iraqi soldiers run the training with minimal help from the Coalition Military Assistance Transition Team.
“The (Iraqi Army’s) noncommissioned officers are really stepping up. They’re developing their own schedules and teaching all the classes,” said Army Master Sgt. Kary C. Allen, school commandant and senior advisor at the Regional Training Center here. “The instructors had a lot in front of them, and overall they’ve done an admirable job.”
Allen, a 46-year-old from Atlanta, praised the accomplishments of a few exceptional instructors, one of whom was Iraqi Army 1st Sgt. Ali Ehmood Sahil.
“I gave theoretical lectures on modern fighting arts and the modern weapons,” said Sahil. “We also teach (the soldiers) how to settle a checkpoint and enter a house or building.
“I am very proud of the graduates,” he added. “These heroes will make for the victory of Iraq and the safety of the Iraqi people.”
To effectively protect their citizens, the soldiers themselves must have the proper equipment. Camp Habbaniyah’s Central Issue Facility provides the graduates with uniforms, boots, sleeping bags, helmets, body armor and eye protection. They also receive military-issued AK-47 assault rifles upon their enlistment.
“You’d be surprised, but just having them all in uniform makes a difference. It makes them feel proud, and it helps with unit cohesiveness,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Harry L. Cook, supply noncommissioned officer in charge of CIF. Cook, 44, is from Fayetteville, N.C.
Some attended the graduation ceremony out of sheer curiosity, but Air Force Maj. Marcus A. Primm, an information-operations planner with MNF-W, came to see the motivation level of the new Iraqi soldiers.
“The sooner the new Iraqi Army comes on board, the sooner our mission will be complete,” said Primm, 35, from Mobile, Ala. “That’ll pay dividends across the board, both for the U.S. and the Iraqi population.”