News: U.S. Soldiers, Iraqi Sailors secure shores
Story by Spc. Samuel Soza
AL FAW, Iraq — Iraqi security forces are constantly stepping-up their role in the protection of Iraq, from the heart of the country out to the borders, where the Iraqi Coast Border Guard can be found at work with U.S. Army Border Transition Teams.
"Our primary mission is to coach, teach, and mentor Iraqis as we get ready to transition out of Iraq and let them take complete control over their own security," said Capt. Matt Hagerman, team chief for a BTT that works with the 17th Fires Brigade.
To meet that goal, the BTT's share their assets -- physical and intellectual -- to help leaders of the CBG create a force that can operate long-term.
The CBG consists of four "boat groups" and one land-based battalion that patrol the land along the Shat al-Arab and costal border with Iran from Al Faw to Basrah.
During a recent trip to the CBG headquarters, Hagerman and a team of Soldiers brought an assortment of training subjects to Gen. Shehab, a key leader in the Iraqi force.
Together, they created a curriculum, meant to be taught in the hours between CBG patrols, that will supplement the longer courses taught by the U.S. Navy's Riverine Squadron 3 which focus on water operations.
"The classes that we teach primarily focus on the land battalion but are also classes that can be water or land, such as basic first aid or detainee operations," said Hagerman, a Williamsville, N.Y., native.
Other classes presented by the BTT include radio and communication operations, targeting, and close-quarters combat.
"We're there now to help them improve as an organization like you would for any friend and any ally," said Hagerman.
One of the greatest challenges has been learning to communicate not just between national cultures, but between naval and Army cultures as well, he said.
The two groups have had to learn different vocabulary to understand each other enough to know what sort of information is relevant to the operational goals.
"The language barrier is actually not that difficult for us," Hagerman explained.
"The Costal Border Guard leadership is an extremely well-educated, intelligent, and dedicated group of Iraqis," he said, "many of whom speak English and other languages such as Chinese and Russian."
With strong leadership and plenty of training, Hagerman said he finds the greatest satisfaction when he sees them in action.
"One of the greatest things is when the Coastal Border Guard does something completely independently," he said.
Hagerman noted a particular instance when the BTT were making a trip to meet with the CBG and stumbled on a large, coordinated training operation, complete with instructors and graders, involving the troops they had been training.
More independent operations will come as the two forces work together to protect the borders of Iraq, he said.
"The partnership is absolutely critical," Hagerman said, "Not only does it help the long term security of Iraq but it also fosters cooperation and understanding between our two countries."