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    Iraqi unit completes independent mission

    Iraqi unit completes independent mission

    Courtesy Photo | An Iraqi soldier from the 1st Motorized Transportation Regiment waves to onlookers as...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

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    Sgt. Joshua Salmons
    4th Sustainment Brigade PAO

    CAMP TAJI, Iraq " Like parents waiting for their children to return from the first day of school, members of the Military Transition Team (MiTT) assigned to work with the Iraqi 1st Motorized Truck Regiment waved and cheered as their protégés returned from a supply-delivery mission to the 6th Iraqi army division Thursday (March 23).

    But not just any mission; this venture marked the first time the Iraqi unit operated independently from the 4th Sustainment Brigade, its American de facto higher headquarters.

    "We're very proud of them," said Maj. Earl Mack, team chief, 1st MTR MiTT, assigned to the brigade. "They trained hard. They were so excited, I don't even know if they slept last night."

    "I am really proud about my unit's progress and, at the same time, I feel happy," said Col. Ea"ad, commander of the 1st MTR, speaking through an interpreter. "My mission is so that my people and I can do this more in the future."

    "There was very minimal U.S. input," said Capt. Anthony DeStefano, MiTT liaison officer with the brigade's Special Troops Battalion, speaking of the mission. "They did the route selection and planning, determined their start-point time, and coordinated for a link-up with the Iraqis on the other end."

    The operation was the culmination of months of efforts from the 4th SB's Taji-based battalions: the STB and 189th Corps Support Battalion.

    Working in tandem, the STB and 189th Corps Support Battalion both work in separate areas to develop the 1st MTR into a competent force.

    "Our role as the STB is to assist in mission planning and coordination," said Lt. Col. William Schiek, STB commander. "The MiTT is under our tactical control and we're providing the function as the MTR's higher headquarters, assigning missions and helping with maintenance."

    "The 189th helps with driver's training and provides intel to the MiTT," said Lt. Col. Lenny Kness, 189th commander, speaking of his role with the MTR. "The other thing we do is the uparmoring of the [Iraqi] vehicles."

    Using a combination of Mercedes cargo trucks, donated U.S. five-tons, and Russian "Kraz" trucks, the MTR has a fully uparmored fleet at its disposal, including M1151 humvees the Iraqis use for gun-trucks.

    Working with their American counterparts, the Iraqi soldiers have worked alongside mechanics and welders here on Camp Taji to learn how to support these vehicles.

    "We continue to help teach them how to maintain their vehicles," Schiek said. "They've even taken two Mercedes five-ton trucks and turned them into maintenance contact trucks, complete with generators, air compressors and tools.

    "They could probably machine parts in the middle of the highway," he added, laughing.

    "For awhile we had a number of Iraqis come to the DS fabrication shop," Kness said of his unit's uparmoring mentoring role. "We taught them how to weld and fabricate, creating patterns to actually armor their own vehicles."

    Teaching the Iraqis to do things themselves is central to the brigade's focus.

    "We have not gone down there to try to impose our will on them," Schiek said. "There's a lot of give and take. We'll ask them how they should handle something and they'll come up with a solution " often times it'll be a solution that we would have never considered that is better than what we would have come up with."

    "They are helping us in many areas," said Ea"ad. "The Americans have helped us a lot in training and they still help my unit when we need it. We share the goal of being fully independent."

    As Americans work with Iraqis on the same camp, toward the same goal, lines of nationality begin to blur.

    "With the two teams I work with, we have been working as one team," Ea"ad said. We feel like we are brothers and forget that we are Iraqi or American. We both worry about each other."

    "The best that they can do is what we teach them," said Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Chandler, MiTT S1, who received a purple heart for injuries suffered on a recent escort mission with the 1st MTR. "Their determination to adapt to new things is unbound. I treat them with the same respect that they've proven they deserve.

    "I"d sacrifice my life for them; I have no issue with that," he continued. "They"d do the exact same thing for us. They're not afraid to fight or die for an American. They're our brothers in arms."



    Date Taken: 03.27.2006
    Date Posted: 03.27.2006 04:58
    Story ID: 5869
    Location: TAJI, IQ 

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