Infantry: Teaching Iraqis in Self Defense

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December 5, 2005: As American infantry units find themselves working more with Iraqi infantry, the American units have set up short (usually a week, or less) training courses to raise the skill levels of the Iraqis. This is partly self-interest. The American troops are depending on the Iraqis, who often lack basic combat skills that U.S. troops take for granted. But there's a second reason as well. Allowing the Iraqis to work closely with American troops outside of a combat zone. When outside the wire (outside their bases), the U.S. troops tend to be all business. This demeanor is a bit (or a lot) intimidating to most Iraqis, even to Iraqi soldiers working with the Americans. So these training courses serve to show that the U.S. troops are OK guys, and not the robosoldiers Iraqis have come to consider them. The training, conducted by small teams of American troops, also makes the G.I.s or marines more comfortable about the Iraqi troops. It's called "confidence building."

Most Iraqi troops certainly need to enhance their confidence. This is done by giving the Iraqis some of the first real weapons training they've ever had. The old Iraqi army did not stress marksmanship much, leaving the troops to "pray and spray" with their AK-47s on full automatic. But with a few days training, most Iraqis can be taught to fire much more accurately, with single shots, then they ever could do before on full auto. This cheers up the American troops no end, as they often witness Iraqi troops blasting away, to little effect, at hostile gunmen who would be taken out in a few seconds by much more accurate U.S. soldiers or marines. The Iraqis are also pleased to find that the accurate American fire isn't some kind of magic, rather, it's just using, and practicing, the right techniques. Another popular short course covers convoy operations. Many Iraqi soldiers don't know how to drive, or don't know the special driving techniques for military convoys. With more Iraqi troops in action, the terrorists are seeking out Iraqi troops convoys because they know the Iraqis are less well prepared to defend themselves than Americans.

There's still a problem getting Iraqi commanders to follow up on the weapons training. Under Saddam, the ammo budget for the infantry was miniscule, and many officers hate to see troops using thousands of rounds just to improve their aim. These officers are more likely to allow their troops to practice the battle drills the Americans teach them. Especially important are the drills for clearing a building, or getting around streets and buildings without presenting good targets for enemy gunners.

The training, and the joint operations with American troops, are expected to create a core of professional and experienced NCOs and officers that, in the next decade, will train and lead an Iraqi army that won't be, as it long has been, the most ineffective in the Arab world.

 


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