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Multi-National Force-Iraq






Brig Brig. Gen. Alston: Thanks for being here. Glad you're here after relatively short notice, too, and we appreciate your presence.


I'd like to introduce Brigadier Brig. Gen. eral Daniel Bolger, who is the commander of the Coalition Military Assistance Training Teams, which is part of Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq.


We are here to provide you an opportunity to talk to the new commander of this unit, and we'd like to restrict our questions to his particular command. So if you could keep your questions directed at that, that would be just terrific. And without further ado, I'd like to introduce Brig. Gen. eral Bolger.


Brig Gen . BOLGER: Thanks. Thanks, Don.


Well, as said, it's a great opportunity for me to be here and talk to you folks today. Again, I'm relatively new at this job, although I'm not new to Iraq . I've been here since February, previously serving as the U.S. deputy with the Multinational Corps. And so I've been able to get around a little. And all that's good, because as a new guy in the Army or in any of the services, they always tell you that you've got to gather information about your new job.


And Don read off the titles that go with it, but boiled down to it, what my job is, is I'm involved in leading the outfit that helps the Iraqi military man, train, organize, equip, base their forces, gets them ready to fight. And then when they're ready, they go into the fight under the tactical control of the corps.


And I think in the not too distant future you'll see some of them going into the fight into -- under the control of Iraqi senior leadership. Right now we have individual units of battalion size and brigade size -- you know, about a thousand guys, maybe 3,000 guys -- already under Iraqi control. Just north of here in Baghdad , for example, the 1st Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Infantry Division is involved in patrolling Haifa Street . And they actually own that area and work for the 3rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.


So anyway, my job is to sort of get them ready to do all that stuff, and I've been doing it for about two days. And as I got ready and looked at it, I gathered information. And some of that information -- in fact, some really good information -- came from reporting that you all have done from your experiences in the field and your colleagues' experience in the field, what you really saw, sometimes warts and all, of how units were getting along, how they were learning from each other, when they had problems, all that kind of stuff. And that's been a big help to me.


So I would say it's really an opportunity for me to talk to you today about it and sort of what I've learned so far and some of the things that we're going to be doing over the next few months to really improve the Iraqi military and bring them to the next step.


The only other thing I'd say sort of by way of introduction -- and I know this from personal experience, having been out on many, many combat operations with both U.S. and Iraqi forces at the lower level -- is that the Iraqi forces are in the fight. I'm going to talk specifically to the army, but the police are as well, as you well know. These units are out every day and night, doing the mission that they need to defend their folks. And in many cases, they are literally defending their own families, their brothers, their sisters, their moms and dads, their communities, and they're doing it at great risk.


And many of you who have Iraqi acquaintances know exactly what I'm talking about. The terrorist enemy that we fight will go after a person's family for joining the army or police. They will go after a person's relatives. They will destroy their house and all that kind of stuff. Many Iraqi comrades that -- have had that happen to them or their close family. And so it's very personal for them as they defend this country, and they're doing it at great risk. They're patriots. And I think, as an American, I now have a little bit of a knowledge of what must have gone on in our country during our own Revolution in 1775 to '83, in terms of the stresses that puts on a population when you're fighting against terrorists right in your own midst, and you got to take that risk to go out and do the job. And they're doing that. They are in this fight.


So, ladies and Brig. Gen. tlemen, what questions could I try to answer sort of in what I do here with my Iraqi counterparts? Yes, sir?


Q (Name off mike) -- with the AFP.




Q The question actually has to do with the police, if you're willing to take a stab at it. The Interior Minister, Soulagh, said before the press conference this afternoon that one of the problems his police force is having is that they were only equipped with light weapons, whereas the insurBrig. Gen. ts have heavy weapons.


Can you confirm that and give an evaluation of what do you think their needs are in terms of weaponry, including the Interior Ministry commando units.


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: Yeah, sure. This I do know not in my job as the CMATT commander, but in experience on operations with police. Iraq , like any large country, has a variety of police units, and they have some that, as an American, I've not seen before, but they make sense in this environment. Some of their police units, in fact, have weapons and equipment that we would consider to be military grade. Their 8th Mechanized Police Brigade, for example, has armored personnel carriers, heavy machine guns.


I think the challenge is we're fighting a terrorist enemy that blends in with the population. And so the Iraqi folks, just like we do, have traffic police who are armed with pistols, and they have station and patrol police who have pistols and rifles, sort of like you might see police back in a United States community or many other countries' communities. And they don't necessarily know when they go out on that patrol that day to run a corner or, you know, deal with stoplights broken that they may get in a firefight.


Weapons are available, and the police commanders have to make a decision, you know, what they're doing, and they have to make that based on how things have been going in the community.


We found that as police get more knowledgeable of the community they're patrolling, and as they have a better relation with the folks, they choose the right weapons for when they go out. And we've also found that, as the minister said, that sometimes you need a little bit of backup. So that involves having communications and having the ability to call in a backup force. I've seen them working pretty well on this. And any of you all who have been around the city the last few weeks, as they went through the Al Barq, the Lightning Operation, you might have seen a lot of vehicles that looked to you like tanks or something like that, but they were not army vehicles, they were police vehicles out providing that backup to the patrol police.


But just like in any country, the frontline for the police are really the regular old blue-shirted police on the beat talking to the people, walking house to house, going down seeing that the shop owners are okay -- same type of thing you'd see anywhere. And that's really the challenge, because you can load those guys up with rocket launchers and machine guns, and stuff, and if you load somebody up like that, are the children going to talk to them? You know, I mean, essentially they lose some of their ability to work with the community. What you want to do is back them up, and that's what I think the minister has been working hard on, and I know our guys over in CPATT, the police side of the transition command, they've really been working on that, as well, trying to work out what's the right mix. And it's tough in a fight against an enemy that doesn't wear a uniform and who tries hard to blend in with the innocent people. It's a tough operation. And I think the police have done real well.


And I'll tell you, we learn -- I mean, as an American, I learn every day, I know the other coalition guys do, and the Iraqis do every day as they fight this very dangerous enemy. I mean, they're out there doing a lot of dangerous stuff, and we got to be ever vigilant, whether police, army, whatever.


Q Is there a cap, however, on what they're allowed to carry?


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: I don't follow you.


Q A cap in terms of, you know --


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: Oh. Like in other words we say, hey, you can have a 7.62 mm but you can't have a 7.82 mm?


Q Yeah.


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: There's a cap only in the sense that like any organization, they have certain weapons that are issued to them. They have a pretty close working relationship with the army that gets better every day, so should they require more -- let's say they say, boy, you know, we really need a tank, we need a big tank, like we have up in the 1st Mechanized Brigade or the 9th Mechanized Division up at Taji -- so if they said we needed that, the army could supply them tank support. And that's what I think is the real key to it. At least what they've taught me is if you don't have the right stuff in your unit, you go and look for the rest of the team and see who's sort of on the bench who you can bring in. Same for them; they'll do the same -- you know, try and bring in their army brothers and get them in the fight.


Lightning, again, Al Barq, the recent operation was a pretty good example of that teamwork at work. And so I wouldn't say a cap, really, other than they're organized with certain stuff based on their normal mission. If they need more, they work on their team with the Ministry of Defense or other units in the Ministry of Interior, or coalition, and they try to get what they need for the mission.


Q Thank you.


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: It's a good question, though.


Yes, ma'am?


Q I'm from The New York Times. How many -- can you tell us how many American advisors there are for the Iraqi security forces? There have been different numbers bandied about. I mean, in the mid- teens --


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: I'm sure there are.


Q -- no one is really saying, exactly. Is it about half the army has these things, or two-thirds, or all -- (inaudible)?


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: Well, all the Iraqi army and special police units, which are the commandos and public order brigades, have advisory teams. The station police have partners. And the difference is, of course, because they're involved in law and order, you don't necessarily want a permanent foreign presence, any more than any other country would want there. So they have folks come by and train them, or go on certain operations with them. But in Brig. Gen. eral, that's done as an internal Iraqi sovereignty, with coalition in assistance.


But the army units all have these advisors. I wouldn't want to give you an exact number. And I think you'll understand why, in terms of -- these advisors are out by themselves, a long way in some cases from coalition force units, working closely with their Iraqi comrades. And if I started giving you numbers, that would kind of help the guys on the other side figure out who they are and how to target them.


We'll just say that we definitely have an appropriate number of folks in each of the units. It's a small number. Not very much for a 500-person battalion and what's sitting in this room. And they're appropriately equipped with weapons, communications to get help, and all the things they need to do that job of advice and support.


And the key thing to remember is, what they do -- they don't lead the Iraqi army units. They advise. They assist. And they help them with the stuff that the Iraqi military is still developing, in terms of if they need to get a medevac aircraft, because the Iraqi air force doesn't yet have a lot of helicopters that are prepared to go in and pull out wounded people. So coalition guys will help with that. And the advisor team has the radios to call that in. Or should the Iraqi folks need to know what the local coalition unit to their right or left is doing today. Well, they -- these guys have the right radio nets to call over and ask those questions to avoid a situation where two units bang into each other and all that.


But it's not a large number, and each unit, as I say -- to us it would look pretty small. But it's the right number, and they've all trained together to do this task. And every Iraqi army unit does have them.


Q How are they staffed? Is it a central thing, or is it kind of, you know, on ad hoc basis per brigade, per unit -- the local infantry decides who to send to the Iraqi --


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: Yeah. What I would say is it's a mission that's been given to our units. And we have a variety of units, of course, that are here in-theater, and some of them have been given the mission to provide advisors. The advisors train, and we have an advisor training academy up at Taji called Phoenix Academy . Phoenix is the call sign for (my higher ?) headquarters. And they train the advisors on what to do as far as everything from how to field-strip an AK-47 -- the standard weapon of the Iraqi military and police -- to how to call in a medevac and things like that, that they may not know when they're not with a U.S. or coalition unit.


The key thing that we try to do for the advisors, though, is pick them carefully. You want to pick somebody a little more senior. So you -- for example, you rarely see on the advisory teams a young private Marine or a young airman, or a young private soldier, because you want somebody who has a little bit of experience with leadership. Because they're typically advising the Iraqi force leaders.


And the other reason you want a little bit more seasoned person is, they're leading by example. You know, they don't speak the same language. So if they want to show the Iraqi person how to fire a machine gun properly to get the maximum effect in clearing off a roadblock that the enemy has set up, you want to have somebody who is very expert with machine guns and can demonstrate it step-by-step, so then their Iraqi counterpart can see that. And so we've found -- we put a little bit more senior folks in.


Now I think -- I think most of you know that within the military, some of the most expert people we have in advising armies -- foreign armies -- within the U.S. military are our Special Forces -- Army Special Forces. But there's only so many of those folks.


And they're, of course, spread out doing missions worldwide -- a lot of them here, but a lot of them in other places as well doing the things they need to do. They have been involved in the training of our advisory teams here, and we've found that to be a really big help because they bring a lot of cultural awareness. Many of them speak the local languages, and they've helped folks learn some key phrases.


And frankly, the other thing I'd say -- having just started the advisory thing myself for about 48 hours -- it's very much a human thing; it's how you relate to that other person you're with. And once the barriers come down between Iraqi and, in my case, American -- and the same thing happens in the field -- you can make very quick progress. And that's a challenge.


Q Yes, but how are they staffed? I mean is there -- is it, you know, on the ground each division decides? Or is there some central decision? You know, how are --


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: Oh, yeah -- I follow you now. Each sub-unit decides. So they're partnered -- Iraqi armed forces are partnered with U.S. units. We've been able -- out of -- as we call it out of hide or out of the strength of the multinational force, Iraq as a whole -- we've been able to provide some of these advisors out of other units other than the fighting divisions and battalions. But a certain percentage, maybe a little under half, have been provided out of battalions because, you know, we only got so many headquarters people to strip out and all that kind of stuff. And again, you want people who have combat experience, people who are a little bit senior.


So what they'll do is they'll give it as a mission to a U.S. or coalition battalion and say provide an advisory team to your partner battalion. And they'll pick a certain number of guys -- small number, not much bigger than the number in this room -- and get `em their stuff and send `em over; and they'll be the advisors. And, like I said, they'll send them through a little training regimen so they're not totally confused as far as what they're going to do because, you know, in my life I'm not a Special Forces guy; I was never trained to advise a foreign army. But after having some of this training, you know, I'm a little bit more confident and I think I know now sort of some of the things to say and some of the things to do as I help the Iraqis, you know, work to develop their army.


Yes, sir. Q Thanks. I'm from Reuters. Can we just get a quick overview of where we stand at this point with the number of Iraqi police that are out on the streets that have been fully trained, and then the number of Iraqi military that are fully trained out in the streets. And then also, what the rate is at the moment of sort of graduation of new units both for police and military.




Q And thirdly, how many of those military are at a level now where they are -- actually stand alone, where they could take over; they don't have to be partnered or they could potentially just run a mission; they could completely stand alone; they can run missions themselves.


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: Okay. On the numbers, I'll tell you all, as I prepared for today's brief, I intentionally did not get a big list of numbers because I didn't want to stick them in my head and end up accidentally regurgitating them. I'll tell you, our PAO folks will give you the current numbers as briefed this morning as best we can. But I will tell you this: both police and military, right now, are building pretty well towards what they think will be their final plan numbers. The military's a little ahead of the police.


You asked a question about fully trained. I will tell you this, I've had four-and-a-half months of combat operations here to include a heck of a lot of patrols day and night, raids, everything like that. I don't consider myself "fully trained" after 27-plus years as an Army Infantry guy because fully trained means you know exactly what to do in every situation. I'm not sure there is such a person, even in Special Operations Forces that are very highly trained.


Now, have they completed the training program that prepares them to go out and do combat? Yes. And when we send units out to the field, Iraqi units, when they complete the military training program at Kirkush or they do their preparations at An Numiniyah and some of the other bases, and they head out to take over an area -- like the 1st Brigade 6th Division is just north of us here on Haifa Street -- they've gone through all the preliminary training; they've learned how to use their weapons.


They've learned how to give first aid. They've learned how to do small unit tactics, how to do a cordon of a house and search people, how to handle detainees. They've learned all that. And then it becomes a matter of the leaders and the soldiers learning how to really do it with -- against a dangerous, thinking enemy that's not wearing uniforms, that's not necessarily doing things in a way that maybe we thought of, that's going to do everything they can to frustrate you with suicide cars and roadside bombs and all that kind of stuff. That's what the police and soldiers confront on the ground.


Now, our training does gear toward that. In other words, we're not teaching them how to fight a big tank war in Central Europe or something from the 1980s. We gear them toward this environment. But even said, there is always that jump that you have in any profession where you go from the theory of the classroom or the drill ground or the practice field to the reality of combat. Because the one thing we can never practice is the factor of fear and presence of death. And when you introduce that, the only things that can compensate that are leadership and discipline and, frankly, the trust and love that the soldiers have for each other. And that I have seen. I've been out with enough Iraqi units in combat. I've watched these guys fight to recover their wounded, I've watched them fight to recover American wounded advisers, I've watched them cover each other as they go in on targets. I've watched -- I watched an Iraqi battalion commander who had five men wounded in an explosive device attack, because he was moving toward a raid not far south of Baghdad here -- we were on a night raid together -- I watched that battalion commander make a very tough decision to continue on that raid because he knew he had good intelliBrig. Gen. ce on a key target he needed to hit. He sent some of his guys back on a continBrig. Gen. cy plan to rescue those wounded. They rescued an American adviser with them and got them back to the hospital. And the unit continued their mission. And, I mean, that was first-rate stuff. And they hit the target, and they did exactly what they were supposed to.


But that unit had had about two months of combat experience. They had gone from that practice field. They bonded as a team. They were close to their American advisers, who live with them. They called each other brothers. They lived together in the same buildings. They ate the same food. They bled together. And unfortunately, that night one of the Americans died with them. And the Iraqi battalion commander, the first thing he did, Colonel Mohammed (sp), when he came off that raid, he went right to the aid station and he said, "Where is my brother?" And he was talking about John Smith, the American sergeant. And to me, that's what you get when you talk. That unit, to me, is ready to fight. And I saw them fight.


Q Brig. Gen. eral, just a quick follow-up to that.




Q Are there some things, though, that you've learned with the training -- obviously, it was put into place quickly -- that you've learned, you need to now work into training because you missed out on them -- you know, some key areas that people really weren't very good at? Let's say, for example, restraint of force. And secondly, is there any sort of training you're introducing in terms of encouraging better relations between any divisions you might have between Sunni and Shi'a units, you're training people in the same division who may have difficulties?


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: Right. I think what you just asked there are some really important questions, because the first is, do we sort of a lessons learned? In other words, do we stick with the same program we started with a year and a half ago? We try to really feed back from the field. And that's one of the reasons why our instructors at the academies and things like that, both Iraqi, who are doing the primary instruction, as well as the coalition guys who are helping them -- the Australians, for example, at Kirkuk are part of the assistance team along with Americans. They get out to the field to see what field units are doing in experience and to try and get the latest information. So if we've upgraded the weapons or changed the tactics of how we would do certain things, if the enemy has changed their tactics -- you notice, as you all are well aware, lately they've been using a lot more of these suicide vehicles. We have to change sort of what we teach the Iraqi soldiers at all levels -- the junior soldiers, the noncommissioned officers, the officers -- so they're ready for that environment.


And then the other thing you asked is a great one and has to do with the ethics of how you relate to each other. We emphasize that in Iraq , which is their heritage, all Iraqis are Iraqi first before they are any other confessional group, Sunni or Shi'ite, before they are Kurd or Turkoman or Arab. And, you know, when you look at the Iraqi flag, it has three green stars. The first green star -- the rightmost, of course, in the Arabic -- is for unity. And we always emphasize that, because like every soldier, they start with their flag, and they raise the flag in the morning. And we emphasize that in the training, that we're all Iraqis together. And when we go out as advisers, we always tell them, hey, we are on the same team with you. We are your brothers, too. And we go together into the fight. And we try to model that ourself, and we try to model it with them.


Now, is it perfect? No, because, you know, we still have humans at every level. And there are some coalition force guys who don't quite get this, and, because of language barriers and other things, it's a challenge for them to get as close as they need to to their advised unit.


Within the Iraqi forces, some units come primarily from one region, which overrepresents one group, and you'll occasionally have trouble with that. I don't think there's a military in the world that recruits, though, from multiple ethnic groups or multiple religious groups that doesn't have to deal with that challenge. And the way you deal with it always is leadership, discipline and teaching the shared ethic that there's a bigger thing than you in this. The army is not about me; the army is about the team. And that team ethos can be built in training, and then it's validated in combat.


And not unlike we've seen in our own country over the past, when we would have racial or ethnic tensions or religious tensions, sometimes when people go together to fight, those things fall away, because they realize that everybody bleeds red, and everybody together under fire can do the job. And that's been a hard lesson for the United States . It's a hard lesson the Iraqis are learning right now. But I can tell you, in the school of combat here, they're learning it.


Yes, sir?


Q Yeah. What are the -- what is -- would you say is the biggest problem facing the Iraqi forces in their training? And what is the biggest problem facing the U.S. forces that are training the Iraqis?


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: Great question. For the Iraqi forces, I -- when you say what is their biggest problem, I'd say their biggest challenge they face on a daily basis is the pressure over the war. And what do I mean by that? Every Iraqi, when they come to the recruitment station, when they go to the training base and get issued their weapon or their boots, they're in the war already. The enemy has attacked recruits en route to bases. They've attacked recruits at stations. You know some of the horrendous bombings of police recruits and army recruits lined up just to join up or to sign up or to check.


So unlike my experience when I joined the Army, where I was in a safe base -- I didn't have to worry about anybody shooting at me with live bullets -- these guys are in the fight from the day they come in.


So they need a very fast ramp-up to skills. In other words, they're very willing students for all the right reasons. They want to learn this stuff because it is their life and the lives of their friends on the line. And I think that's real challenge, because it does focus them, but it also puts some danger into the training. I will give you an example. When we take the cadets from the military academy at Rustamiyah out for their little field exercise -- cadets from West Point , when they go out for a field exercise, are armed with blank ammunition, so they can learn how to do their tactics without anyone getting hurt. Cadets at Rustamiyah go out, they carry blank ammunition, but their guard force and their instructors have to carry live ammunition because the terrorists don't care that these people are cadets and are unarmed. They will go after them if they can identify them. And that's the environment.


That's a really tough challenge. I mean, when you got an army that basically, from the minute they're in it, they're in the fight. And to inculcate that and to still get the training done -- because the bottom line is, you can't issue the guy a machine gun on the first day and let him know what to do. He won't know what to do with it. You have to find a safe way to train him. We've done that. We protect our training bases. We put the extra emphasis into giving them good base defense and try to preserve that training opportunity.


Iraqi units in the field, just like the American and other coalition forces, train during combat operations. If you go to their bases -- and I know you've seen some of them -- they'll have a little rifle range, they'll have obstacle courses, they'll have areas where they can practice entering buildings or clearing a street, because that training has to continue, even in combat. We've certainly learned that ourself.


Now a challenge for our side, for the coalition side and the U.S. in particular -- I think the biggest challenge is that we're not Iraqis. We come to this with the fact that we speak English and most of the folks here speak Arabic. We come to it from the fact that we were raised in a different military environment than the one they're in. And we come to it from the fact that we're -- I don't speak specifically Army, but we're in armed forces and our Army that's had a different experience than the Iraqi military.


The important thing is a mutual respect has to be established. And despite all those differences, I've found in my own experience on operations with Iraqi army and police that when you get past the "we're different" part and you really start to do things together, you go to the range together, you start doing marches and physical training together, you start preparing for operations together, and you begin to execute the operations, particularly after some tough things happen, things come together, and those barriers drop.


And you realize that it is okay for Americans and Iraqis to get along even if they can't speak the same language. And not only is it okay, it's essential. And it's okay -- it's funny, as a soldier I was always told, you know, you got to look out for your force protection, you don't want to do something stupid. And that's a true statement, but I'll tell you, some of the safest times I've had in my life in Iraq have been when I've been surrounded by Iraqi soldiers on operations or in their posts, because I know that those guys will die rather than have one of us get hurt. And we feel the same way about them when we're out there.


But that's a real challenge for Americans, is teaching you that, because you're going to be out with a small group and you're going to be out with a lot of folks who aren't Americans. And sometimes -- you know, sometimes you got to remind guys the United States and the coalition, we are not at war with Iraq , we are at work with the terrorists. The Iraqis are our allies. And that's an important point to teach folks. And I find that that's the thing you got to constantly drum into folks, that these folks who are out with us -- police, military -- at great risk to their life, they are out there on our side. We're all on the same team. And once you get past that, despite the language barrier, things go pretty well.


And I'll tell you, the language barrier falls quickly. The sort of, you know, English/Arabic mixture you start to hear in these units, especially in combat, is a little weird, but I mean, I've heard it and I understand some of it, and it seems to be working okay.


Q Excuse me.


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: Yes, sir?


Q A follow-up question if you don't mind. On a tactical level, are there one or two things that you could say would be the hardest for the Iraqis to learn?


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: I think one thing that's been a challenge for them, as it is for all armies -- our own Army has certainly experienced this at times in our past -- is building a good, solid corps of sergeants. You know, you can't make a sergeant by just handing a guy the rank. You really need experience. You need years of training. In many cases, in the Army I come from or the Marine Corps that I work with every day, or the Air Force or whatever, or the Navy, these guys develop this, you know, 10 years, including years of combat deployments, years of schooling, really learning at the foot of senior master chiefs and senior sergeants major.


Well, the Iraqis, the cadre was not really like that. They were under a Soviet model, where the officers did a lot of those tasks, and their warrant officers, their senior NCOs, had a much more restricted rank of tasks. Now it's been interesting. We've encouraged the Iraqis -- and they have jumped on this -- to start giving their senior NCOs more authority. So when you go to Kirkush, the Iraqi drill sergeants run it, just like you would see at Paris Island or at Fort Jackson or anywhere else. And they're thriving. I mean, they're enjoying it. These guys join the army to do stuff. They're happy to try new things. I mean, is it always straight? Not always, but I mean they're working on it.


But the problem is, no matter what I do, I can't give them the equivalent of that 10 years experience or the 20 years experience an American Army sergeant major or a Marine sergeant major will have who's standing right next to me.


I can't somehow magically give that to them. They're in the hardest school there is, which is combat. So they're going to accelerate. And we've given them some pretty good top training. I mean, there's Iraqi NCOs right now at American Ranger School , for example, which is one of our toughest schools, to teach you those leadership skills.


But even that said, that's going to be a challenge for them. And it shows at the tactical level, because -- lack of experience. I mean, you all have seen these streets at night. I mean, small elements, five or 10 guys led by a sergeant, are the ones that win or lose. The Iraqi sergeants are doing real well, but the fact of the matter is, they're learning some tough lessons. And we have learned these same lessons. Heck, our units learn them every day. I've learned them a lot here. Things you knew already, and things you didn't know -- because the enemy teaches you a tough one sometimes.


But that's -- that's really a challenge. And I think it's a good challenge. And it's one where the Iraqi senior leadership has sort of seen the model of the United States or Australia , or Denmark , or some of the other units here in the coalition and said, "We think you have a good way to do it for a volunteer military, and so we want to build that."


But it's not going to be built overnight. They're in the fight, but that's a tough way to learn.


Yes, sir?


Q Jon Finer from The Washington Post. I have two questions for you. What sort of background checks are done on military recruits? I mean --


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: Great question.


Q -- we've heard U.S. military personnel in the field express concern about revealing the details of operations to the Iraqis they're working with, because they're afraid they're going to leak those details to insurBrig. Gen. ts. So what efforts are made to sort of check out who these guys are? And I'll -- you can answer that, and I'll ask you my second question.


BRIG. GEN. . BOLGER: Actually, we found two things there. First of all, the Iraqi ministries make a pretty thorough check of recruits. One of the reasons we've had some of these long, long lines of people waiting to join up is because there's a very thorough vetting process. For people who want to be leaders, that vetting process is extremely thorough.


Now, does that mean, when you're bringing in tens of thousands of folks, like we've done in the last year and a half, that you won't have some bad apples get in there? No, of course. And I -- knowing the type of enemy we're fighting, I'm certain that the terrorists have tried hard to insert their people in.


That said, one of the other things you do, though, and this is the nature of a military -- the Iraqi military doesn't go home at night, okay? This is not Fort Campbell -- where I came from -- where, at the end of duty days, folks get in their car and can go back home. These guys are in a compound, an armed compound.


So even if one of the privates or one of the sergeants, or one of the officers or something was some inserted sleeper aBrig. Gen. t or something, he'd have a hell of a time getting the news out to his guys in time for it to make any difference, because these guys are just like us. The majority of the orders that affect the on-the-ground operations, they don't come three weeks early. They don't come two days early. They come that evening, and you execute them by dawn, you know -- that kind of. So it has been in armies all the way. So we find, by putting them in together and keeping them focused like that, there's not as many opportunities.


Now, the one tactic the enemy's used -- you'd sure expect this, with a terrorist enemy and this kind of war -- they have stolen uniforms, they have stolen IDs, they've impersonated police, they've impersonated military. That's what those kind of guys do, when they're on the terrorist side and stuff like that. And that creates some uncertainty.


For the U.S. forces, we always say --


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