News: Iraqi NCO Academy PLDC Course
SGT RACHEL BRUNE
101ST SUSTAINMENT BDE
27 JANUARY 2006
Q-WEST BASE COMPLEX, Iraq " Sgt. 1st Class Ala received what used to be known as a battlefield promotion.
About a year ago, Ala was a jundi, or private, in the Salamiya Company, near Mosul. The unit was threatened by "bad guys," and some of the soldiers decided to quit.
The commander asked his soldiers, Who would like to go on a mission to fight terrorists? Ala was one of only a few who volunteered, and upon successful completion of the mission, was chosen to receive training to become a sergeant.
As he spoke, interpreter "Chuck" leaned in close to translate his words above the clatter of a classroom full of Iraqi NCOs cleaning their AK-47 rifles while trying to listen in on the conversation.
Ala, a soldier with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division Iraqi army, is currently a platoon guide at the NCO Academy here. Another cycle of the primary leadership development course, taught by American and Iraqi cadre, began Jan. 21.
This course is designed to train Iraqi NCOs and develop a strong NCO Corps for the Iraqi army, modeled on the U.S. Army NCO Corps. For soldiers like Ala, the course unearths their potential as leaders and gives them the necessary skills to lead their troops.
"The will and the desire to succeed [are] there in the Iraqi army," said Sgt. Maj. Walter Murrell, NCO Academy commandant.
Murrell, from Melbourne, Fla., and his instructors are from various units within the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, from Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
The curriculum is based on training developed by the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy, and uses the NCO schools program as its base document, said Murrell. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense provided the NCO Academy with the Iraqi Soldiers' Creed, the Iraqi Army Values and the NCO Creed.
The NCO Academy is a small building tucked into a corner of the base near the 4th Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment tactical operations center. Inside, there are four classrooms, a storage room and a small covered area for formations.
Outside, the cadre have constructed a combatives pit, a mock traffic control point and an obstacle course. A one-mile road march down Perimeter Street leads to the rifle range.
The U.S. Army NCO Corps has a proud tradition that traces its lineage back to the time of the Revolutionary War. The Iraqi NCO Corps, as the coalition forces are trying to develop it, is something new for these troops.
The training consists of practical ranges, as well as classroom training on professionalism, discipline and soldier skills. From Ala's words, it seems he already has formed the basis of what it means to be an NCO.
"Kurdish, Arab, Shiite, Sunni " I have to treat all of my soldiers with respect," said Ala. "All of them came to protect my country, so I have to be fair to them."
In order to become an NCO, Ala first took an examination. He was then given the responsibility of leading missions to see if he could lead troops and treat them with respect.
When Ala arrived at the Academy to attend the NCO course, his initiative once again came to the fore.
"After we began the cycle, the instructors asked, who can march the platoon?" said Ala. He raised his hand and, after demonstrating that he could march the troops, was chosen as platoon guide.
The first few days of instruction took place inside one of the small classrooms. A dark red rug covers the floor, and enlarged photos depicting various training events decorate the light blue walls.
The cadre are compulsive photographers, and the students often get into the swing of things, mugging for the camera.
During the actual class time, however, the instructors run a tight ship. On the third day of training, Ala marched his soldiers in and they stood at attention by their seats until he gave the command to sit down.
Sgt. Ben Huminski, an infantryman from Merritt Island, Fla., began teaching a class on the Law of War. After every couple of sentences, he paused to allow Chuck to translate his words into Arabic. Then Sgt. 1st Class Neshwan, an Iraqi cadre member, translated into Kurdish.
Huminski, who came to the school from Headquarters Battery, 172nd SBCT, put forth a scenario. Troops are patrolling outside Qayyarah, and suddenly they take fire from inside the village. What do they do?
Ala raised his hand. Standing, he said he would call his commander for further instructions before firing on the civilians.
Satisfied with the answer, Huminski explained further. An NCO is responsible for obeying his orders, but he is also responsible for the actions of his subordinates.
Throughout Huminski's class and the class on the Geneva Convention, taught by Staff Sgt. Alvin J. Cates, of Livingston, Tenn., some students took diligent notes, while others focused their attention on the projection screen.
The slides for the class on the Geneva Convention were emblazoned with the winged lion seal of the Multi-National Security Transition Command " Iraq, or MNSTCI, the agency in charge of training Iraqi security forces.
Cates, who is a fire direction chief with the 4-11th, began by teaching the history of codified laws of war. The first systematic code was one used by the Saracens, based on the Koran, according to the slides.
With a quick fast-forward to 2006, Cates elaborated on different lessons such as discriminatory firing practices and proper care and treatment of detainees.
During the next four days, the Iraqi cadre took charge of the course as they brought the soldiers through the rifle marksmanship section of training. Neshwan brandished an AK-47 as he taught the four fundamentals of marksmanship, first in Arabic and then, acting as his own interpreter, in Kurdish.
The soldiers then filed outside to practice the prone, kneeling and standing firing positions. Neshwan and fellow instructor Sgt. 1st Class Mohammed watched each student carefully, making small adjustments until they were satisfied.
As Neshwan demonstrated the standing firing position, he cautioned the students to avoid pointing the weapons at their own feet.
"Tomorrow, the number one thing is safety," said Neshwan,
sounding exactly like any American range NCO in the world.
The next day, the soldiers drew their weapons and marched to the street. Fanning out to either side of the road, they tactically road marched down the perimeter to the range.
At the range, the soldiers worked on firing tight shot groups. After each firing line shot a certain number of rounds, the instructors went over the targets with the students, pointing out where adjusting a trigger squeeze or steadier breathing would help a soldier's aim.
As the students went through the range, a platoon of Iraqi army soldiers and their American counterparts pulled up to use the neighboring range. One of the IA, a former platoon guide himself, went through the NCO course a month ago.
Sgt. Achmed has used the training he learned at the school when he goes out on missions. He teaches other soldiers and tries to explain everything to them, he said.
"I would advise all the students to pay attention to the instructors, to share in class and answer questions," said Achmed.
After the ranges, the soldiers returned to the classroom to clean their weapons before turning them in. Mohammed inspected one weapon, then spoke loudly and at length at the front of the room.
"When I inspect the first weapon, I put my finger in the chamber and there is no dirt," translated "Cowboy," one of the interpreters. "Why aren't the rest clean like the first one?"
First platoon, Ala's troops, performed "hellzhyen," or very good, at the qualification range.
As the platoon guide, Ala helps his soldiers to stick with the training.
"I help them get patience, to not give up," said Ala. The Academy is where they will get the training and experience they need to carry out their mission.
For himself, Ala has large goals in mind. He would very much like to become an instructor at the school, an idea the current cadre are open to.
Before joining the Iraqi army, Ala worked on Q-West as a contractor, and his English skills, although rudimentary, are an advantage. He has two reasons for wanting to be an instructor, he said.
Ala's first goal is to train Iraqi soldiers so they will have the skills they need, and his second goal is improve his English.
The first week at the NCO Academy NCO course ended with a stress shoot. The cadre "smoked" the students, making them do strenuous calisthenics before trying to shoot so they could get an idea of what it is like to try to fire with an accelerated heart rate.
The next part of the cycle will take the IA soldiers back into the classroom to learn more NCO tasks such as map reading and first aid. The cadre will watch Ala closely to see if he has the right stuff to become an instructor.
Whether Ala returns to the school, or whether he goes on to lead troops on missions with his battalion, the training he and his fellow soldiers are receiving will hopefully ensure their success as soldiers and NCOs in the new Iraqi army.