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Mullen Tours Iraqi Depot, Training Area

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

TAJI, Iraq, March 3, 2008 – It’s a sign of the maturation of the Iraqi military that planners took the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to visit this sprawling Iraqi logistics base north of Baghdad today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, greets an employee of the Iraqi Army Service Support Institute in Taji, Iraq, March 3, 2008. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN
  

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

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen visited the Taji National Maintenance Depot Complex and Iraqi Army Service Support Institute. He toured clanging production lines where Iraqis are reconditioning Humvees and visited training areas for Iraqi logistics and maintenance soldiers.

The depot and training area will ensure Iraqis can sustain military progress they have made to date, Mullen said.

“The whole base was alive,” the chairman said during an interview after his visit.

The Iraqi military and their American advisors are extremely proud of the Humvee reconditioning plant. “They are very anxious to get the up-armored Humvees,” the chairman said. “They have already reconditioned 50 and ultimately will get 8,500.”

These are vehicles U.S. personnel have used, and with the American forces turning to mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, the Humvees are available for Iraqi use. The production line at the depot refurbishes the vehicles -- some of them have been used pretty hard -- and ensures they are up to standards.

“There are 300 Iraqi civilian employees there,” Mullen said. They check out the vehicles as they arrive, plan the work, and then check 21 major indices on the vehicles. The Iraqis plan to refurbish 400 Humvees a month beginning in May.

The Iraqis are working to a plan that the country’s Defense Ministry has devised, the chairman said.

“There’s a training plan to ensure that when the Iraqi security forces take these vehicles, they can be sustained,” he said. “This is a real comprehensive plan in the midst of execution, and I was real pleased with that.”

Mullen said the Humvees will represent a significant upgrade in Iraqi forces’ capabilities. “These are real combat enablers,” he said. “They are going to let the Iraqis really take control of their own fate and really sustain it over time.”

The chairman also stopped in to see Iraqi airmen working on an Mi-17 helicopter of the fledgling Iraqi air force.

The depot itself is getting a facelift. New construction abounds, and Iraqi soldiers were picking up trash along the sides of the road and burning it, something they have not really done in the past.

The chairman said he’s encouraged by the commitment to training at the base. He saw a driving school with soldiers actually driving vehicles -- a learn-by-doing approach that’s a new development in this type of Iraqi security forces training. “The U.S. leadership told me that six months ago, there wasn’t any training being conducted without a chalk board and people gathered around it rather than practical hands-on training,” the admiral said.

The changes in Taji are not superficial, Mullen said, but rather show the traits of a military organization with an eye toward long-term growth and development. “These are not just a combat enabler, but organizational and institutional enablers,” he said.

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Biographies:
Adm. Mike Mullen, USN

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