Infantry: Gun Safety for Iraqis

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October 21, 2005: One interesting thing Americans discovered, while training Iraqi troops, is that most Iraqi men tend to be very familiar with firearms, especially the Russian AK-series. The country is cursed with an abundance of rifles and assault guns. In some regions, these weapons are so common that even boys of 12 or so may have one. One would think that this would make training them relatively easy, but in fact it doesn't. While Iraqi recruits tend to know a lot about firearms, even to the extent that they can maintain them reasonably well, they don't know a thing about weapons safety. Consider the Arab custom of firing their weapons into the air on happy occasions (they are called "joy bullets" in Arabic), often with deadly consequences. When someone is killed or injured by the bullets that, inevitably come back to earth, the injury is shrugged off, or blamed on a handy enemy (Palestinians blame Israelis, some Iraqis blame any armed foreigners in the vicinity, or nearby Iraqis they don't get along with).

Thus, American trainers quickly learned that safety training is very important for Iraqi recruits. Indeed, it was found that gun safety training needed far more emphasis for Iraqi troops than for Americans, who live in a culture of safety. Resistance to safety training by Iraqi recruits is pretty high, at least initially. But once they understand the purpose, they become surprisingly good students, perhaps because they all know someone who lost a goat or a family member to a bullet that was simply obeying the law of gravity. The presence of Egyptian or Jordanian trainers is particularly helpful in accelerating the process of getting Iraqi recruits to accept firearms safety; as brother Arabs and Moslems. In this case there's less resistance to an "infidel" notion of being careful while using assault rifles.

 


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