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Iraqis Take Lead in Tactical Ops With Up-Armored Vehicles

By Sgt. Kristin Kemplin, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, April 11, 2006 – The 6th Iraqi Army Division's military police frequently patrol the streets of Baghdad in light-utility vehicles that offer no more protection than a standard pickup truck. But thanks to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, MPs are getting a new, professional look this year.

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The 6th Iraqi Army Division's military police company received four Polish army vehicles in March as part of an initiative by the Iraqi Defense Ministry to provide updated equipment to soldiers. The Dzik-3s are a huge upgrade from the light utility vehicles the MPs have used since the start of the war. Photo by Sgt. Kristin Kemplin, USA
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Driving 4.5-ton Polish-made armored personnel carriers emblazoned with the Iraqi flag, these MPs now look like a formidable force on the streets.

The aptly named "Dzik-3" -- dzik is Polish for "wild boar" -- is a super-utility vehicle with all-around armor, bulletproof windows, puncture-proof tires and smoke launchers. The unique structure of the firing ports built into the vehicle gives it a competitive edge against the enemy.

"Now these soldiers are protected from any attack, because the rifle muzzle is the only thing outside the vehicle," said Lt. Col. Ahmed Joseph Ibraheem, commander of the 6th division's military police company.

"We are in 2006 and we are trying to build a new army. So why not bring new equipment and vehicles to match with the year we are in?" said Ibraheem, whose company received four of the brand-new vehicles at the end of March.

Iraq's defense ministry "saw the need for the MPs to get better vehicles and get out into the fight," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Rogers, an adviser with the 4th Infantry Division's military transition team.

After purchasing 600 of the vehicles from the Polish army for a reported $100 million last November, the Iraqi Defense Ministry launched the first Dzik training course last month. Instructors from the ministry began teaching selected soldiers from all the brigades within the division on the vehicle's basic weapons systems, driving techniques and communication systems.

Using the techniques of the American military, the Defense Ministry conducted an experiment with "train the trainer" teaching methods and encouraged the 30 members of the first class to return to their respective units and train up their personnel.

The training is still in the experimental phase. Once the soldiers have successfully trained themselves and conducted missions while reducing lost lives on the battlefield, more vehicles will be handed down to the units.

"The insurgents will see this vehicle, which is armored and equipped with the best technology, and it will give the soldiers more trust and intimidate the insurgents," said Warrant Officer Ali Houssen Abed, an instructor at the Ministry of Defense Up-armored Vehicles Training Facility. The MP company commander hopes to receive more vehicles if the experiment proves to be successful.

After graduating from the course March 16, the military police company's eight drivers "went back and trained their other soldiers," said Rogers, who said he considers Fort Hood, Texas, his hometown. "They are about 80 percent complete in training the rest of the company on the Dzik."

Working with coalition forces, the MP company conducted its first mission with the Dziks on March 29. The mission was a personal security detail, with American soldiers in the lead.

Since the success of that mission, the troops have continued to go on missions and have gained confidence in the vehicles. They have advanced so quickly that they are now taking the lead in personal security convoys with coalition forces.

"They are in the lead," said Rogers. "They've got a lot more swagger in their step now that they are leading."

The vehicles will enhance the visibility of Iraqi soldiers on Baghdad's streets as well as separate them from terrorists, who commonly use pickup trucks to direct small-arms fire at coalition forces. These vehicles, stenciled with proper markings and identification, will identify the soldiers as legitimate military police if they ever need to cross over into another Iraqi brigade's battlespace, said Rogers.

But the training has not been without its challenges, said Ibraheem. The instructors and leaders alike felt it would be beneficial for the Polish army to come and give them hands-on training with the vehicles.

"The communication system is not an American product. It is also new to the Americans," said Ibraheem. He praised the military transition team for its ability to adapt and help the soldiers to work with a system that is foreign to both countries' armies.

Getting 11 people to fit in the vehicle as the Polish have designed it is another challenge, said Abed.

Another daunting task for the Iraqi army is proving itself as a good army, said Rogers. "(Iraqis) are building their army in the middle of a war," said Rogers. "They are standing up an army in a combat operations tempo, and they are doing an unbelievable job."

"Now if we have a mission anywhere, even a harsh, dangerous place, the soldiers in my platoon compete to get on the missions," said Ibraheem.

(Army Sgt. Kristin Kemplin is assigned to the 363rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMilitary policemen of the 6th Iraqi Army Division prepare to run through a mount and dismount exercise with their new up-armored vehicles. Photo by Sgt. Kristin Kemplin, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe Dzik-3 up-armored vehicle contains 12 firing ports, which allow Iraqi army soldiers to provide 360-degree security without having to leave the vehicle. Each port also has an up-armored hatch to close the port when it is not in use. Small, bulletproof windows above each port enhance visibility. Photo by Sgt. Kristin Kemplin, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageIraqi military police gunners mount up and prepare their positions in the new Polish army vehicles April 4. The Dzik-3 has a standard machine-gun weapons mount for the gunner. Complete with gun shields and hatch halves, it offers soldiers all-around protection. Photo by Sgt. Kristin Kemplin, USA  
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