Airmen training Iraqi NCOs to lead protection force
by Master Sgt. Randy L. Mitchell
447th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
12/13/2005 - BAGHDAD, Iraq (AFPN) -- Security forces pride themselves on making a good first impression for base visitors. Now they are instilling that same pride and professionalism in Iraqi Airmen.
Three Air Force security forces members are training the Iraqi protection force that will ultimately inherit security operations at New Al Muthana Air Base here.
The Airmen have been training their Iraqi counterparts for two months, said Tech. Sgt. Jared P. Skinner, NCO in charge of security operations at the base.
“We have been primarily training Iraqi enlisted members to develop the mid-level NCOs to perform flight sergeant and shift supervisor duties,” Sergeant Skinner said. “Using the train-the-trainer philosophy these NCOs will be responsible for training new security recruits assigned to the base.”
He said the training is necessary since the Iraqis have no experience in static base defense or providing security for base resources such as aircraft.
“The Iraqis are very eager to learn,” he said. “Our tactics, techniques and procedures have encouraged a completely different way of approaching security.”
Most of training has been focused on protecting base assets since New Al Muthana is currently the only Iraqi air base and will be home to the Iraqi 23rd Airlift Squadron and their three C-130E Hercules aircraft.
“The 23rd is currently in training status at Ali Air Base,” said Capt. Jerry Ruiz, the forward operations executive officer at New Al Muthana. “They will move to their new home here in January.”
The training here is just one part of training taking place that covers a full-spectrum of base support, Sergeant Skinner said.
“U.S. trainers are deployed here at New Al Muthana to cover the full spectrum of a mission support group,” he said. “We have security forces, vehicle operations, civil engineering, communications, as well as a medical technician training their counterparts.”
Sergeant Skinner got this job based on his background. He was a heavy weapons trainer for security forces before becoming an action officer at Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Two other Air Force defenders make up the three-man team in charge of getting the Iraqi protection force up-to-speed. Capt. Greg Holmgren is the senior base defense unit advisor. Tech. Sgt. Michael Marzec is the base defense unit training advisor.
Sergeant Marzec, deployed from the 30th Security Forces Squadron at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., said he sees the mission as an opportunity to teach the best Air Force security forces practices to the Iraqi military.
“I see our efforts paying off as Iraqi officers and NCOs learn how and why the Air Force operates within the framework of our core values,” said Captain Holmgren, the operations officer for the 374th Security Forces Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan. “That is never more evident than when these two outstanding NCOs are teaching their skills to the Iraqi forces.”
Sergeant Skinner said, “I have been an instructor for most of my Air Force life. You really have to capture the Iraqi trainees’ attention at times. So having that experience has definitely made this more of a manageable task.”
The 10-year Air Force veteran welcomed the chance to help develop the Iraqi security force corps.
“However, the progress we have made here is something to be proud of,” he said.
The security forces team arrived in September, while the base was still a construction site.
“We spent the first month or so conducting vulnerability assessments and executing force protection improvements in order to provide a secure environment in which to train,” Sergeant Skinner said.
There have been several challenges along the way, he said. One was learning to communicate effectively with the trainees.
“We primarily use an interpreter during training,” he said. “However, we make a conscience effort to engage in language training with the Iraqis. Their English is coming along much better than my Arabic.”
The largest hurdle has been developing self-confidence in the enlisted ranks, Sergeant Skinner said. During Saddam’s reign, the gap between enlisted men and officers was tremendous -- there wasn’t any respect for the enlisted corps.
“The biggest challenge though has been preparing the enlisted for the responsibility they are about to accept,” he said. “Enabling them to accept delegation has been tough.
But the gag is beginning to close, he said.
“The Iraqis here see the responsibility our enlisted Airmen possess and they mimic that behavior,” he said. “It’s very encouraging.”
The senior military advisor to the base believes it is imperative that they do not fail in their mission at New Al Muthana.
“The future of Iraq depends on it building back its airpower,” said Lt. Col. Michael Mawson, a New Hampshire guardsman. “To do this they need to have strong and efficient security forces guarding their bases. The security trainers are doing an outstanding job in shaping the future Iraqi security forces.
The colonel said, “There are no other Iraqi Air Force base defense units. This is their first. Sergeants Skinner and Marzec and Captain Holmgren are setting the standard for how future Iraqi security forces will perform their mission.”
Sergeant Skinner said the Airmen are trying to build a successful and sustainable training model for the new Iraqi Air Force.
“Hopefully, all of the training, mentoring and advising will help create a capable and independent force for Iraq long after we’re gone,” he said.
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