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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

First Team general Congratulates Iraqi Regular Army's Rebirth

Baghdad, Iraq
-- Jan. 6, 1921 commemorates the birth of the Iraqi Army. Eighty-four years later, the interim Iraqi government announced the reorganization of Iraqi forces. Four previously separate and distinct organizations have been merged into one force structure, called the Iraqi Regular Army (IRA).

Traditionally celebrated as sort of a memorial day in Iraq, announcing the merge of its military forces on the Iraqi Army's traditional birthday was good timing, according to Brig. Gen. Michael Jones, assistant division commander for the 1st Cavalry Division and Task Force Baghdad.

"This merge won't change what we've been doing, and how we've worked with the Iraqi forces," Jones said. "What is does do, though, is cement all of the Iraqi forces together ... giving them a common identity."

The four entities merged to create the IRA are the Iraqi National Guard (ING), Iraqi Intervention Force (IIF), Iraqi Special Forces (ISF) and the Regular Iraqi Army. The ING was, by far, the largest of the four forces, Jones said, but each of them has their own set of capabilities.

"The Regular Iraqi Army forces are smaller, but very capable," Jones said. "Units from the IIF and ISF participated in operations in Najaf and Fallujah and did very well."

The 1st Cavalry Division has been working with Iraqi forces since assuming the role of security the Iraqi capital last April. Jones said he's seen a marked improvement in the units, even as the forces continue to grow.

"When we first arrived, they lacked equipment," Jones said. "For some Iraqi Soldiers, all they had was an AK-47 and a soft cap." Since then, the general said the Iraqi troops have been better equipped and better trained to face the insurgency.

"Our focus has been on combat operations," Jones said. "The insurgency has been fighting hard stop the upcoming elections and to disrupt the new government's efforts to make improvements here."

The general noted that his division has been working the entire year closely with the 40th (formerly ING) Brigade. He said more troops continue to get trained to fill even more Iraqi units.

"We're in the process of standing up the 41st Brigade, and three more battalions," Jones noted. "Also, we're assisting the Iraqis stand up the Baghdad Division's headquarters."

Just a little more than three weeks before national elections are slated in Iraq, Jones said it won't just be American Soldiers securing the streets of Baghdad to ensure the democratic process.

"We'll all be involved in the elections," Jones said. "From patrolling the streets to guarding key infrastructure, we'll all have a role, especially the Iraqi forces."

Jones said besides the newly-formed Iraqi Regular Army, Iraqi police and other Ministry of Interior forces will also assist in the Jan. 30 election security.

Release #050107k



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