News: Army NCO uses creative techniques to train Iraqi Army crane operators
Story by Capt. Aaron Testa
BAGHDAD – As the engineers from 16th Engineer Brigade prepare to redeploy, their partnership with 9th Iraqi Army Field Engineer Regiment is drawing to a close.
During a final visit to their headquarters, Brig. Gen. Glenn C. Hammond, III, commander of 16th, witnessed a creative technique one of his Soldiers has been using to train Iraqi Army crane operators.
Master Sgt. Timothy Smith, from Laurelville, Ohio, a construction supervisor and inspector with the brigade, has spent the past few months working as the engineer advisor to 9th IA FER.
According to Lt. Col. Jonathan Buonamici, the operations officer for 16th, Smith was the liaison for all the training and requirements for the Iraqi engineers at 9th.
"He determined what training was required and was their construction liaison, not just for crane training but for other training and maintenance. Whenever we needed information on the 9th, we could go to Smith and he could take care of it right away," said Buonamici.
According to Buonamici, Smith is extremely well versed in the maintenance and training of heavy equipment. He provided an educated eye to the Iraqi soldiers.
"He could guide them on how to learn to use their equipment. He had all the tricks of the trade from 20 or 30 years of experience that he brought to the table," said Buonamici.
One of those tricks was demonstrated to a team of U.S. Soldiers from 16th during their final visit with 9th IA FER.
Smith used a fishing pole and cups to help familiarize the students with how to handle and control a crane as well as the dynamics involved in maneuvering suspended loads through a simulated corridor.
"I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical when I saw a fishing pole and a maze of cups on a table, and he announces, 'I am going to demonstrate the basics of crane operation,'" said Hammond. "He went on to demonstrate that he has taken novices down this road many times."
Smith, a construction trades worker/equipment operator on the civilian side, said he learned these techniques from training that was provided to him by his employer, the Messer Construction Company, based in Cincinnati.
"The fishing pole simulates the handling and control of the load on the crane's hook at the end of the load-line," said Smith. "It also simulates the deflection of the boom when picking and swinging loads."
According to Buonamici, this technique really showed the value of the "crawl, walk, run" methodology.
"They can do the classroom 'crawl' and they learn the concepts with the fishing pole in a non-threatening environment and in an environment that will not cause harm to the equipment," said Buonamici.
Buonamici said the training taught two important things; how the equipment will react, and a new method to train Soldiers.
"He showed them that with some small pieces of equipment, you can train your Soldiers. You don't necessarily have to go out on the equipment," said Buonamici. "They learned with the weight hanging in the can just what would happen to a big block T-wall without actually hanging it up and hitting something."
According to Buonamici, this helps the IA engineers: when they do get on the equipment, they are not totally blind – they have an idea of how it is going to work.
"The practice in the classroom saves quite a bit of equipment hours on the cranes and more importantly, the fuel that would be expended to conduct this initial training," said Hammond.
Smith's training sessions always opened with a question to help him determine the level of the Iraqi soldiers' abilities. The classes last as long as the students remain interested.
"The IA soldiers always wanted more and drove much of the training, which led into the next task by their questions and discussions," said Smith.
While some of the IA engineers may have been able to operate cranes without this training, Smith believes that the training showed them how to conduct themselves more professionally and produce a more professional result.
"I breathed into the IA soldiers one of the major principles of the U.S. Army's NCO Creed, "No one is more professional than I," said Smith.
According to Special Forces Col. Gerard Tertychny, the Stability Transition Team chief from 3rd Infantry Division, this training gave the engineers the confidence and ability they needed to do it themselves.
"These guys can go out and do this stuff now without us. They have the ability to be independent now," said Tertychny.
Smith believes that this increased confidence was the training's greatest effect and will allow the IA Soldiers to mentor and train others in the future.
According to Brig. Gen. Hammond, since Smith's training, the Iraqis have demonstrated they can accomplish missions on their own: "Master Sgt. Smith has thoroughly accomplished his mission!"