News: Tennesseans train Iraqis on entry control point procedures
Story by Sgt. David Scott
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE TAJI, Iraq – Every Sunday, members of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) train their counterparts on the essentials of force protection, because soon the 278th ACR will responsibly hand off its security mission to the Iraqi army military police.
Training during the May 9, session consisted of vehicle and personnel search techniques at entry control points. Master Sgt. Melvin Brown, Iraqi partnership liaison for the 278th ACR, and a Nashville, Tenn., native said the training sessions at Contingency Operating Base Taji, Iraq, are structured in a building-block format.
"What we try to do every week is build skills and reinforce some existing skills that the … Iraqi army military police [who work at entry control points] have for searching people as they enter ECPs." Brown said.
Sgt. Josh Kimberly and Pfc. Eric White, cavalry scouts with B Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 278th ACR, 13th ESC, both Columbia, Tenn., natives were the primary instructors. The day's training at the Iraqi army compound located at COB Taji lasted nearly an hour, with an interpreter to assist both the students and the instructors.
Kimberly, who served with the 278th during its previous deployment to Iraq in 2004, took the lead explaining the tasks to the squad of 10 Iraqis. White then picked up where Kimberly left off, giving the Iraqis step-by-step instructions. Kimberly demonstrated each task and then the Iraqis repeated each task under the watchful eye of their American counterparts.
Brown said the training has a purpose for both the jointly manned U.S-Iraqi checkpoints located at COB Taji and the checkpoints that will be manned by Iraqis alone as the upcoming responsible drawdown of U.S. troops and equipment progresses.
"This training on these skills for the safe entry of vehicles into the base — making sure that we don't have vehicle-borne [improvised explosive devices], other types of contraband, dangerous items — makes everyone safer," Brown said. "As we draw down and have less Soldiers here from U.S. and coalition forces, then the Iraqi army will take an even greater role in the security at those checkpoints and those ECPs. So this serves both of those purposes."
Brown said the day's training conducted by Kimberly and White was all about educating the Iraqi army military police on the latest threats identified by U.S. forces.
"What we are trying to do is give them new tactics, techniques and procedures and try to let them be aware of … emerging threats that are new in the way people hide things in vehicles and do things," Brown said. "We reinforce the normal TTPs about how to search the vehicle, and what to do when they find something, because if you don't really know, when you find something, without being trained, you may actually disturb it, [and] may cause it to detonate."
The trainers, their students and the translator assigned to this class took an earnest approach to the training, but still found time to relax with each other. Kimberly said this duty assignment is a far cry from the first deployment to Iraq in 2004 with the ACR.
"We take it [training] seriously, but at the same time we joke around and have fun with it," Kimberly said. "It's totally different now. It's slowed down. It's not as fast-paced and I don't think it's as dangerous. We're working a lot better with the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police and focusing more on letting them handle their business while we're starting to step back."
At the end of the training session, the trainers, students and the translator parted ways with smiles and handshakes.
Brown said the Iraqi army military police will continue to train with their U.S. counterpart as part of setting the conditions for future success in Iraq.
"This is how we leave Iraq," he said. This is how we fulfill the commander-in-chief's intent. This is how we fulfill the commanding general's intent and everybody in between; to leave the country and turn it over to their security forces. So the more we do this, the closer we are to fulfilling that intent."