FORWARD OPERATING BASE CONSTITUTION, Iraq – A blown circuit shut down the air conditioners in what was once a mess hall for Republican Guard troops, and left 120 Iraqi army lieutenants sweating in their uniforms as they waited to make history, June 6.
This was the first class to graduate from the Iraqi Army Field Artillery School’s Officer Basic Course and a little extra heat was not about to stop them from reaching their goals.
The 152 day course, held at a new training facility near the city of Abu Ghraib, gave the officers the fundamentals of field artillery doctrine, tactics and organization, according to Lt. Col. Patrick Martin, the senior U.S. Army advisor to the Field Artillery School and Directorate.
Martin, from Flower Mound, Texas, was impressed by the strides made by the young officers as they went through the training.
“I got to see these officers perform in their forward observer positions, their fire direction positions and on the gun line,” Martin said. “They performed extremely well.”
Iraq Army 2nd Lt. Omar Hamid Ajeel, a course graduate, gave credit to his instructors for helping the class succeed.
“All the instructors that were giving the classes are the most experienced officers and instructors I have ever seen in my life,” he said. “They were giving us all the information related to the artillery branch, with no limits.”
The senior Iraq army instructor for the officer’s course, Lt. Col. Ali Jasem, said he was happy to see the hard work of the students and staff pay off with the graduation.
“The course started in January and the capability was limited at first, but we provided them with the knowledge and information related to artillery that they needed,” said Jasem, who is confident that the artillery branch will play a major role the new Iraqi army.
According to Martin this graduation comes at just the right time for the Iraqi Army.
“These students are going to go and help the capability of the Iraqi army,” Martin said. “The branch was just established in August of 2009. In January they’re going to be receiving seven battalion’s worth of U.S. artillery ... so the addition of these officers into the fold of the field artillery is very significant.”
For Martin, the graduation was significant not only because these were the first Iraqi field artillery officers to be trained since March 2003, but because the course was run almost entirely by the Iraqis, with minimal advice and assistance from his team.
“The Iraqis are doing all this on their own,” he said. “I’m advising and observing what they’re doing and, as an advisor, this is what we want to see … that the Iraqis are doing this.”
Iraqi Staff Gen. Aboud Ganbar, deputy of the Iraqi Army chief of staff for operations, the graduation’s keynote speaker, said he was thankful for the field artillery branch and school, and advised the lieutenants to set aside differences and remain loyal to their country.
Following the event, Ganbar offered his thanks to Martin and his team for their help in establishing the new Field Artillery School.
“I feel personally today that we have a fully capable teaching facility and school,” he said. “To graduate the officers and fill the assigned staff for the Iraqi artillery branch in Iraq, this first graduation means very much to us.”
Both Martin and Ajeel see a bright future ahead for Iraq the Iraqi army and for field artillery officers’ role in it.
For Ajeel it’s a matter of patriotism.
“I would like to say, God willing, I will serve my country honorably, “ he said, “and we will get all the terrorism down with all the capabilities that we have, to build a great Iraq.”