News: Iraqis training Iraqis key to their independence
Story by Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
By Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
Multi-National Division-Center Public Affairs Office
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – If numbers could talk, they would say amazing things about the an-Numaniyah Military Training Base.
The base can hold up to 11,000 Iraqis security force members. Of those, 8,000 are trainees going through various military courses; the rest are instructors. Classes of 2,000 Iraqi police officers receive training at the national police academy alone.
Even more remarkable, the total number of coalition forces present on the base is fewer than 30, making it one member of the U.S. forces for every 360 ISF members on base.
Most significantly, though, is the number of coalition members directly involved with training ISF.
"This base is a kind of success story because the Iraqis are running everything. The base really is self-sustaining," said Cmdr. Kurt Mondlak, the Logistics Maintenance Advisory Team commander who oversees the base's logistical issues.
The base is host to a motor transportation regiment, an Iraqi training battalion, an Iraqi army military police academy, a national police training center, a war-fighter training team and various job-specific training sites.
This regional training center serves an example to others throughout Iraq not only for accomplishing so much but for doing it independently.
"I believe [every other base] in Iraq is going to get to that point. I'm sure there are some that are already there," Mondlak said.
Mondlak said he believes these efforts are the key for the ISF to maintain security in the country without any coalition support in the future.
The U.S. forces on this base include Army and Navy service members, who make up four advisory teams. Their primary missions are to oversee the training and advise Iraqi military leaders.
"We help them come up with their own solution rather than give them the answer," said Mondlak, of Norfolk, Va. "It's come to the point now, if they come to us with a problem, most times they come with a solution."
Mondlak is very cognizant that instilling American methods into the Iraqi system is not successful. The teams' main objective is to bring U.S. Armed Forces experience to help ISF grow.
"It has to be their way of doing it," he said. "They're obviously much better with executing their [own] solutions."
The teams do get their hands dirty in power generators maintenance and water treatment, but even those responsibilities will soon transfer. Everything else is up to the Iraqis.
They perform maintenance on their own vehicles, pull all the security throughout the base, feed their own forces and, of course, conduct all the training.
"They're much more squared away than we think they are," said Lt. Col. Nick Mastrovito, of Morristown, Tenn., regional training center senior adviser. "Soldiers are squared away. Non-commissioned officers are doing their jobs."
The compound, one of the more established Iraqi bases, was built to support training for the 8th IA Division Soldiers, but is currently supporting the 10th and 14th IA Divisions as well. Two bases are under construction, one in Tallil and one in Basra, to eventually alleviate the heavy flow going through an-Numaniyah. At this point, the Iraqi instructors haven't had any problems taking care of all three divisions.
"I think they treat it as a matter of pride that it's their base, they're running it. It's not coalition telling them how to run it. It's not coalition running it for them. It's theirs," Mondlak said.
The main challenge facing the Iraqi forces there has been establishing a supply and maintenance system. Many of the units still hold paper records rather than using a computer system. This makes ordering parts and equipment difficult.
"Sometimes you have to remember that they don't have all the resources in the world like [U.S. forces] do, so their solutions are going to look a little different than our solutions," Mondlak said.
Despite their challenges, Mondlak gave the ISF credit for their resourcefulness. Often, their repair shops will order parts that are similar to what they need and modify them to make them work.
Mondlak has also noticed Iraqi leaders coming together and communicating more. Their joint efforts have allowed them to need less and less help from their coalition counterparts. He sees the quality of training sites improving, and Iraqi leaders stepping up for their own Soldiers. And though their growth has been gradual, Mondlak said their progress is even more significant because of the hardship this country has had to endure.
"You've got to put it into perspective," he said. "We're trying to build an entire Army from the ground up in the middle of a war."
It's a challenge, but it appears to be working.