Iraqi Soldiers Assume Responsibilities in Guarding Country
By Spc. Joshua Hutcheson, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
MOSUL, Iraq, Oct. 2, 2003 Coalition soldiers relinquished security and guarding responsibilities of Objective Jaguar, an ammunition supply point, to the soldiers from Delta Company, part of the Iraq Civil Defense Corps in a ceremony here Oct. 1.
Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, 101st Airborne Division commander, speaks to Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers after a relief-in-place ceremony Oct. 1 at Objective Jaguar, the Al Hadr ammunition supply point. Photo by Army Master Sgt. Kelly Tyler.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The 12-square-kilometer supply point had been guarded by 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) for the last five months.
"The mission to secure the ammo supply point is important. It's larger then the city of Mosul," said Lt. Col. Kevin Felix, commander of 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment.
Besides Objective Jaguar, the ICDC will secure the nearby Al Hatra hotel as well as 2,000-year-old ruins that are in the area, said Staff Sgt. Ricardo Mendez of the regiment's Headquarters and Service Battery cadre.
"The ICDC is the cornerstone to building the new Iraq," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Gullett, cadre leader.
The soldiers of the ICDC underwent two phases of training by American soldiers. First, they spent two weeks in a basic training camp at Camp Claiborne in Mosul. Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) trained the Iraqis in marksmanship, drill and ceremony and other military disciplines.
After a period of leave for the Iraqis, soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, took the soldiers to Objective Jaguar, outside of the village of Al Hatra, for another week of training.
The eight cadre members continued with marksmanship training and physical training and first aid, Mendez said. The Iraqis also were given classes on running observation posts, gate guarding, detaining people and searching vehicles, Gullett said.
"It was a new experience, and it was fun," said cadre member Staff Sgt. Terrele McGhee, cadre member.
"Training has been mostly easy, but also difficult at times because of the language barrier," said Warrant Officer Denis Pelts, the 2nd Battalion's officer in charge of the ICDC training.
Soldiers said the training gave the American and Iraqi troops a chance to get to know each other and learn from the different cultures. The Iraqis showed a desire to learn what they could, they added.
"I'm very proud of the Iraqis; they're quick learners," Mendez said. "And they're very proud of themselves. They know what they're doing, and they have good leadership."
Pelts echoed the praise. "They have great leadership and motivation," he said. "With the limited amount of training they got, they're outstanding." He added, "The ICDC is the key to rebuilding and stabilizing Iraq."
The relief-in-place ceremony marked a change that is occurring all over northern Iraq: Iraqis taking responsibility and care of their own country, officials said. The goal of the 101st is to eventually have the Iraqis able to run their country without help from coalition forces.
"This is important, because it represents assumption of responsibility by Iraqi forces," said Col. Ben Hodges, commander, 1st Brigade, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). "(The transition has) gone surprisingly smooth. I'm very encouraged."
With the ICDC taking over securing sites in the Al Hatra area, the 101st soldiers will take a supervisory role, making sure in the upcoming months that everything goes well as more responsibility is transferred to the Iraqis, Gullett said.