News: ISF showcases capabilities during Operation Lion’s Leap
Story by Spc. Andrew Ingram
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE WARRIOR, Iraq – Top Iraqi military leaders, officials and press gathered at the Mahgoor Training Site in Kirkuk province to bear witness as Iraqi security forces conducted Operation Lion’s Leap, a large-scale joint training exercise with the Iraqi army and Iraqi air force, April 24.
During the exercise, 12th Iraqi Army Division and Iraqi special operation forces soldiers showcased their technical expertise and tactical prowess.
“Today’s exercise is a part of a chain of exercises that is raising the ability and readiness of the Iraqi army,” said Lt. Gen. Hussein al Douhi, deputy chief of staff for training, Iraqi ground forces command. “The training operation integrated the training of all our soldiers, NCOs and officers to work in many different situations to protect the best interests of our nation.”
Before the demonstration began, officers of the 12th IA Division used a sand table, a scale model of the battle space, to explain the mission’s objectives to the gathered VIPs.
“This exercise will demonstrate we are ready to carry out anti-terror operations until we achieve victory,” Douhi said.
To kick off the exercise, mortar teams, positioned on a hill overlooking the training area, launched 120mm smoke rounds onto the battlefield to confuse the simulated “enemy” and conceal the arrival of members from Commando Battalion, 12th IA Div.
Commando soldiers assaulted two enemy positions using rocket propelled grenades, machine guns and assault rifles to isolate a third location nearby where hostages were being held.
After assessing the situation, the commandos called in ISOF assets to take the lead in the hostage rescue scenario.
ISOF soldiers air assaulted into the training area on Iraqi air force Mi-17 helicopters and quickly took the final objective, freeing the hostages.
Throughout the operation, an Iraqi air force unmanned aerial vehicle relayed a live-video feed of the operation from a position high above the battlefield to a screen in front of the observation stand.
The UAV was not the only one capturing video of the action—Iraqi reporters invited to the exercise used video and still cameras to document the exercise as the 12th IA Div. moved across the battlefield. Several reporters stood in front of their camera crews, providing a taped newscast with the operation taking place in the background.
Following the exercise, 12th IA Div. commander staff Brig. Gen. Sameer, held a press conference where he explained the success of the operation and fielded questions from reporters about the exercise.
“We trained well—we are prepared to take the fight to any terrorists on our own,” said Sameer, underscoring the importance of the exercise to the Iraqi people.
While U.S. military leaders observed the exercise and soldiers from 1st Advise and Assist Task Force assisted in the preparation for the event, Iraqi soldiers conducted the entire operation on their own, said Maj. David Ward executive officer, Stability Transition Team, 1st AATF, 1st Infantry Division.
“Gen. Sameer, the 12th IA Div. commander, wanted an Iraqi-pure operation, so we are here in just an advise, train and assist role,” said Ward, who hails from West Plains, Mo. “This is the capstone event where a lot of our efforts we’ve put in over the past seven months are coming to fruition. This is a good demonstration of what this division can do.”
The professionalism and competency displayed by the Iraqi soldiers involved in the exercise gave many American soldiers a sense of pride in what Iraq has accomplished since 2003, said Sgt. Jose Arroyo, a mortarman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, attached to 1st AATF, 1st Inf. Div.
Arroyo, who made the initial push into Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom, said Lion’s Leap demonstrated the progress made by IA soldiers.
“I’ve seen a vast improvement in their professionalism since my first deployment and their leadership is really stepping up,” said Arroyo, a native of Mt. Clair, Calif. “We really haven’t had to do a whole lot to get the Iraqi’s ready for this exercise. I think this proves that Iraq is on the right track.”
Maj. Viet Le, STT, 1st AATF, 1st Inf. Div. said he looks forward to continuing his work with the 12th IA Div. throughout Operation New Dawn.
“I am hopeful that the Iraqi army will someday soon independently support a fully democratic nation,” Le said. “The most important thing we can pass on to them now isn’t weapons or equipment, but how we think and how we train.”