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    Teaching Iraqi Army Engineers Route Clearance

    02.12.2009

    Courtesy Story

    555th Engineer Brigade

    By 1st Lt. Benjamin l. Washkowiak

    Background and Mission

    Unlike most coalition forces serving in Iraq, fortuitously approaching an improvised explosive device is usually a welcome experience for the "Sappers" of the 87th Engineer Company, 8th Engineer Battalion, out of Fort Hood, Texas. Moving into the Diyala province in Iraq in early July, the Sappers were tasked with clearing some of the heaviest IED-laced roads in northern Iraq.

    Once the major clearing operations were completed, the Sappers were tasked with a difficult follow-on assignment: teaching their Iraqi army counterparts. Once the Sappers were tasked to train the Iraqi's, they quickly developed a plan to instruct Soldiers from the 5th Iraqi Army Engineer Regiment on everything they knew about route clearance. The goal: one day have the Iraqi army conducting route clearance operations in the Diyala River Valley without the assistance of coalition forces. This article's purpose: to provide a close examination of the topics the Sappers taught the IA engineers to prepare them for route clearance missions. It can also be used to convey what tactics, techniques, and procedures are effective when incorporating IA elements into coalition missions.

    Planning

    Each platoon leader was tasked with developing an action plan, incorporating an IA route clearance team into their platoon. The platoon leaders unanimously agreed, best expressed by 1st Lt. Rojelio Garica, 1st Platoon leader, "We developed a plan that would let us begin in the 'crawl phase' and move up from there," referring to the "Crawl, Walk, Run" training model. With input from the platoons' non-commissioned officers, the three platoons soon agreed on the following training plan:

    -Evaluate IA knowledge-base on route clearance
    -Develop TTPs for incorporating IA route clearance teams into coalition route clearance teams
    -Assist in developing route clearance TTPs for the IAs
    -Train IA soldiers on route clearance specific equipment, e.g. Ferret Arm, MarcBot Robot, et cetera.
    -Train IA soldiers on properly identifying IED indicators
    -Train IA soldiers on properly identifying IED components
    -Train IA soldiers on basic medical care
    -Train IA soldiers in self-recovery operations

    Prior to meeting with the IA engineers for the first time, the Soldiers from the 87th' were assigned specific subjects that they will teach the IA engineers. Each platoon leader's focus was on teaching and coaching the IA platoon leader; meanwhile, Soldiers trained as R2C2-Sapper were training the IA engineers in IED interrogation techniques. After a week-long period of training basic route clearance techniques, the IA engineers joined the route clearance platoons to conduct their joint route clearance patrol.

    Training the IA Engineers

    On the first day of training, 1st Platoon moved to the Iraqi army compound in the town of Ghalbihya to meet with 12 of 36 IA engineers. Prepared to begin the "crawl" phase of the training plan, 1st Platoon was shocked to find that many of the IA soldiers they were going to be training knew very little about route clearance, let alone basic Soldier tasks. In fact, due to recent increases in strength in the Iraqi army and the 5th IA Engineer Regiment, many of the Soldiers that the 87th Sapper Company were training had only in been in the Army for an average of three months.

    With that knowledge, 1st Lt. Garcia, quickly changed the training's focus on the first day. The platoon began focusing on basic "Soldier Skills," such as vehicle maintenance and basic "actions on contact." 1st Lt. Garcia began with the basics and explained to the IA platoon leader how his Badger route clearance vehicle, similar to the U.S.'s Cougar, was going to be best incorporated into the route clearance patrols.

    Training and patrolling continued for the IA engineers and all three platoons from the 87th, with marginal results from the IA soldiers. Furthermore, the company needed to assess where in the plan to train the IAs needed improving. The improved training plan now fits the "crawl, walk, run" training model better and is better suited for the skill level of Soldiers being trained. During the first week of training, each platoon visits Forward Operating Base Ghalbihya and conducts training with the IAs on basic soldier skills and route clearance techniques. During the training's second week, the IA route clearance team was incorporated into the platoon's daily life, to include living, training, and conducting route clearance patrols. The IAs were incorporated into at least one more full week of route clearance training before the platoon leader made his assessment on whether the IAs were ready to be certified to conduct route clearance. Upon the platoon leaders approval, the IA route clearance team conducted its first patrol with the 87th Engineer Company, who was observing from a distance.

    Lessons Learned

    During two rotations of training we have developed a number of TTPs that will be useful to other units preparing to train IA engineers on Route Clearance:

    -Unless training with experienced Soldiers, expect IA soldiers to need basic soldier skills training prior to route clearance training.
    -Use of multiple interpreters is tantamount during training and patrolling
    -Placing a U.S. Soldier and interpreter in an Iraqi army vehicle with a Man-Pack radio improves the flow of information between the U.S. and Iraqi army soldiers
    -When teaching, teach in small groups (No more than six)
    -Expect Iraqi soldiers to learn as much as you can teach them
    -Iraqi soldiers are eager to learn; they want to imitate you.
    -The Iraqi army leaders are hesitant to damage their equipment from IED blasts, due to the lack of maintenance support within the Iraqi army at this point, and would rather have individual Soldiers interrogate an IED

    Summary

    To this point in the deployment, the Sappers of the 87th Engineer Company have certified two Iraqi route clearance teams, with four more teams pending certification. Each Iraqi route clearance team consists of 3 M1151 (up armored HMMWV) and one Badger route clearance vehicle with Ferret Arm. The Sappers continue to make training the Iraqis their company's priority. The Sappers hope that the IAs will soon be the route clearance teams ruling the Diyala's roads; but, for the time being, are exceptionally eager to be the ones "going to find that which others fear."


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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 02.12.2009
    Date Posted: 02.12.2009 10:30
    Story ID: 29942
    Location:

    Web Views: 796
    Downloads: 687

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