New Iraqi Army First Brigade Nearly Complete
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2004 The first of nine brigades planned for the new Iraqi army nearly is complete, the officer responsible for helping to rebuild the country's military reported in a Baghdad briefing today.
Addressing progress in the rebuilding effort, Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, commander of the coalition's military assistance and training team in Iraq, said three battalions of Iraqi soldiers have graduated from military training academies since October. The desired "end state" is to eventually have "Iraqi officers and soldiers take over the training of their own soldiers," Eaton said.
"I would like to emphasize that this will be an Iraqi Army, trained by Iraqis," he said.
The first battalion of Iraqi soldiers graduated Oct. 4 and is based in Kirkuk for duty with U.S. soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division. A second battalion graduated Jan. 6, and is stationed with the 1st Armored Division in Taji.
A third battalion is slated to graduate this week and will deploy for duty in Mosul, the general said. In all, Eaton said the military assistance team hopes to have 27 battalions and nine division in the new Iraqi military.
Eaton said to recruit Iraqis for the new army, recruiting hubs were set up in Baghdad, Mosul and Basara, with training conducted in Kirkuk.
Attrition for new recruits, whose pay ranges from $120 to $240 a month, is average, he said. Most who don't finish their training withdraw voluntarily or fail to meet training standards. He said the attrition rate for Iraqi soldiers, which ranges from 20-25 percent, is not unusual in any army, and is similar to that of new recruits in the U.S. military.
He said more than 1,000 Iraqis are recruited for each 750-soldier battalion. Each class of recruits is ethnically balanced to provide an "atmosphere of tolerance," Eaton said.
"We are looking for those individuals that are looking to defend Iraq and its new-found freedom," he said, "and (who) are skilled in such professions as truck drivers, heavy-equipment operators, food service, first aid, and above all else, infantry."
Training for the Iraqi military is based on a system similar to that of the U.S. military, where officers, noncommissioned officers and lower-ranking enlisted soldiers are trained "simultaneously but separately," then brought together for three weeks of collective training.
After graduation, the battalion of newly trained soldiers is then teamed with a U.S. Army division for further collective training and operational employment. "The emphasis on collective training is on conducting tactical movements and practicing operation in both rural and urban terrain," Eaton said.
The goal of the training, he said, is to provide Iraqi soldiers with "fundamental soldier and leadership skills," such as troop-leading procedures and skills with small-unit tactics and techniques.
He said the training also teaches Iraqi recruits to function as part of a "multi-ethnic" team, and orients them to military service and service to their country. Soldiers also receive human rights training and training in the law of land warfare.
To prevent infiltration in the new army by insurgents, Eaton said that new recruits are screened through a database that checks for Baath Party and Special Republican Guard affiliation.
"Occasionally we have questionable people, but they usually take themselves out," he said. "I am unaware to date of a successful infiltration, where we have had to take action on our part to discharge a soldier because of questionable loyalty to the Iraqi people."
Because of the cost of equipping the new Iraqi army, Eaton said the decision was made to organize the first four battalions as light-motorized infantry units, which he added is "most training-intensive and least equipment-intensive of any military units." Such units essentially consist of large and small transport vehicles and direct-fire weapons, he said.
Eaton said the bottom line of training and equipping the force is "a uniformed soldier with body armor, helmet, rifle, fire-control systems, night-vision equipment, and a motorized transport to move that soldier for employment so that soldier is capable of operating both day and night in an operational context."
Aside from the country's army, Eaton said the coalition is establishing a small coastal defense force, and a small aviation element to help the Iraqi military monitor and protect the country's coastal borders and important facilities. The costal defense force will consist of a patrol squadron of five 30-meter boats and a naval infantry regiment to patrol Iraq's 80 kilometers of coastline.
The navy unit is training with the Iraqi army on basic military skills. The coastal defense force will later move to the Um Qasr-Basara areas for boat training and to learn interdiction and boarding operations, Eaton said.
The Iraqi army air corps will focus on troop and logistics movements as well as air medical evacuation. Eaton said helicopter and air transport pilots will field the first operational squadron this summer. An air reconnaissance force also is being considered that would monitor the Iraqi borders and infrastructures such as pipelines and electrical facilities, he added.
Eaton also noted a change in the nature of the new Iraqi army. "This is not the old army," he pointed out to reporters. "The old army oppressed and terrorized the people, served to defend a tyrannical regime and emphasized such components of human behavior as greed, selfishness and fear.
"The Iraqi armed forces of today serve the people, defend the country and are built on values such as compassion and respect of human rights, selfless service and tolerance of others," he pointed out. "This is something that is easy to transmit to the young men who have chosen this profession."