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Center Helps Iraqis Shape New Army's Military Culture

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 26, 2006 – The Iraqi Center for Military Values, Principles and Leadership here aims to build an army that is competent, loyal and accountable.

Ken Johnson, the senior American adviser to the center, said the center's building process seeks to change the culture of the Iraqi military as it works to become a part of a democratic country.

Part of the process is simply defining the values of the Iraqi military. The structure of the force will be built on those enduring values.

"This obviously is not something we can impose upon the Iraqis," American adviser Army Lt. Col. Ken McCreary said. "Iraqis must define these values."

An American staff is moving forward to help develop doctrine and tools that Iraqi instructors can use to make values part of the soldiers' professional ethos, McCreary said.

Changing a culture can take decades. "One example is the way Iraqi officers regard (noncommissioned officers)," McCreary said. In the old Iraqi army, officers paid little or no attention to the NCOs. They were little more than servants.

"Part of that was because the Iraqi NCOs received no training, and part of that is cultural," Johnson said. "Changing that will be a huge undertaking and require people internalizing the changes. It is a generational goal."

Many Iraqis see the military not as a meritocracy, but as a source of patronage and nepotism. This too will take years to erase, Johnson said.

While the center has a long-term responsibility, it has short-term goals. One is an effort to develop mobile training teams that will go to Iraqi units and discuss military values, principles and leadership.

Iraqi officers will lead these discussions. They will stress study of military service as a profession, with the same need for ethics and moral decision-making that any other profession has. The instructors will discuss "officership" and the proper roles for NCOs.

The teams will talk about professional military values and the law of armed conflict. They will also stress human rights and the role of a military in a democracy, the latter being uncharted water for most Iraqi military personnel.

Iraq's first democratically elected government has just taken office. So "many soldiers need to understand just what democracy in the military entails," McCreary said. "Some think it means all soldiers will have a vote on everything the unit does. That's how new this concept is for the Iraqis."

The center will develop training for members of the Iraqi joint forces at all levels. "The key is the values of the Iraqi military will be inculcated at every level," Johnson said. "It is important to the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people. The army must behave in an ethical and consistent manner to build the Iraqi people's confidence.

"Shaping and shifting attitudes can and must be done," he continued. "But it will take time, resources and, most important, commitment from Iraqis and coalition members."

The Iraqis have nominated retired Maj. Gen. Nabil Abdul Kadir to command the center. The Iraqi staff of 47 hand-picked officers won't report to the center until the end of June at the earliest, said Iraqi defense officials.

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