Iraqi Armed Forces to Receive Transport Battalions
By Sgt. Jared Zabaldo, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 28, 2004 In an effort to move closer to self-sustainment, the Iraqi army -- with Multinational Force assistance -- has begun to stand up three transportation battalions.
The logistic units will provide a much-needed transportation capability to the army, officials said. Currently multinational forces assisting the Iraqi government's security efforts in the country provide the country's armed forces with its logistics support.
"The (Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq's) initial focus was quite rightly to raise combat units that could contribute to the security effort in Iraq," said Australian Army Maj. Malcolm Stewart, the project officer assisting the Iraqi Ministry of Defense in putting the units together.
His organization, the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team, is specifically tasked with assisting the Iraqi government to train, mentor and equip its armed forces.
Each battalion will be a "second-line" unit, augmenting the infantry battalions' own logistics capabilities. Iraqi army battalions currently maintain the ability to move units throughout the country, but only carry limited combat-supply capabilities. Currently, according to Stewart, the Iraqi Armed Forces lack second-line logistic support.
"Eventually we needed to look at just how those units [were] going to be supported while on operations," Stewart said. "So it was recently decided to redress this lack of logistic support by introducing the transport battalions.
"These guys -- the first-line infantry units -- need to be 'fed' their combat supplies and other forms of supply by something, and it will be these transportation battalions that do that feeding," Stewart said.
He said the timeline for forming the new units calls for having an initial company- size force trained and in place by the end of October, with the first full battalion - - the "intermediate force" -- slated to come on line Dec. 11. The objective force of three battalions should be in place by June 2005, he said.
Each battalion will have 765 soldiers organized into four transport companies, one convoy-security company, and one support company with supply, maintenance, and recovery capability. Also, each battalion will have 190 "heavy-task vehicles" and numerous other supporting vehicles.
Training for drivers and for other specialties required to round out the battalion capability -- including supply, clerical, maintenance, security and other capabilities -- is currently being conducted at the Iraqi Training Battalion at Iraq's Kurkush Military Training Base. Personnel are being sourced by both basic recruiting efforts and through re-engaging appropriately trained ex-military personnel.
Training for transport officers and senior noncommissioned officers is still in the planning stages.
"It's obviously the first step toward providing an independent logistic capability to the Iraqi armed forces," Stewart said. "The ultimate aim is of course to allow the forces to conduct their own operations and to support their own operations."
According to Iraqi Ministry of Defense officials, the consideration is an especially important one, given the current operational climate in Iraq. "We must have the ability to supply our units in their tasks with ammunition, weapons, rations, medical supplies," said an Iraqi army major general at the Ministry of Defense involved in the transportation unit's construction. He asked that his name not be used because of security concerns.
"For what we're doing," he said, "we have to be able to maneuver and fight where the enemy is."
Each battalion would likely be assigned to a separate "sector" of the country in support of regional Iraqi armed forces' needs, he noted.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Jared Zabaldo is assigned to the Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq Public Affairs Office.)