News: A new generation of tanker for a new generation of Iraqi military
Story by Spc. Timothy Koster
BAGHDAD – Tankers from 1st Company, 2nd Regiment, 34th Brigade, 9th Army are part of the first Iraqi tank company to participate in the M1A1 Maneuver Collective Training Course, which was concluded on Sept. 28 at the Besmaya Combat Training Center.
The 15-day course is designed to train Iraqi army tank crews to work together at the platoon and company levels by increasing the crew’s competency on the vehicle, preparing them for additional arms training and helping create a self-sustaining protection force for their country.
“[The company] takes the M1A1 tank and they start combining themselves into platoons,” said Bill Deveraux, an M1A1 Tank trainer and Las Vegas native. “In the beginning they’d only been initially trained on the vehicle and now they are trying to put themselves together to work as a team.”
After a few weeks of classroom and hands-on training, the course culminated with a full-speed, all-terrain maneuver and live-fire exercise to demonstrate skills the tankers acquired during their time at the BCTC.
“We learned defense and offense and how to do the formations,” said 1st Private Hussaien Faiez, an Iraqi tanker with 1st Platoon of 1st Company. “We also learned how to destroy targets and cover each other.”
The final exercise involved each platoon, consisting of three tanks each, tactically traversing the training center’s ranges before approaching and actively engaging decommissioned Soviet-era armored vehicles down range with sabot rounds and M2 machine gun fire.
“Why the M1 tank? It is the best, the fastest, and the most dangerous tank in the world,” said Col. Tom Lewis, senior armor advisor for BCTC, at the company graduation, Sept. 28. “As professional Soldiers it is our job to protect our country. We are the ones who suffer when there is fighting. By having the M1 tank, and now the F-16 fighter jet, the country of Iraq is building its capability to defend itself.”
Several of the course’s students expressed they wanted the Iraqi Security Forces to be like the U.S. military to their instructors. Having the M1 tank in their arsenal is a step in that direction. Another critical step in that direction is having highly qualified instructors. Each instructor at BCTC is a retired U.S. Army tanker.
“They are the best trainers we have ever had,” said 2nd Lt. Allaa Kareen, 2nd Platoon commander. “It was very good training.”
Working with people from another nation who have a different mindset and culture has its challenges. However, the instructors have worked around these difficulties to find a rewarding experience.
“It has been very challenging and exciting at the same time,” said Matthew Phelps, an M1A1 trainer and Shreveport, La., native. “I think they have a lot of great ideas, and we bring some different ideas to the table.”
“They were very receptive to the ideas we brought forward,” added Phelps, a retired Army master sergeant. “It was a good combination, a good working environment, for those guys.”
The first rendition of the M1A1 Maneuver Collective Training Course finished Sept. 28. 11 more companies are scheduled to go through the advanced training.
“Eleven more companies will follow you and they are going to look to the standard you set over the last 15 days,” said Lewis.
The next class began Oct. 1.