Iraqi Army, Police Cadet Training Underway at Regular Iraq Army Base
Tallil, Iraq -- The new regular Iraqi Army base in south central Iraq graduated its first police cadet training class in November 2004 due to the efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, independent contractors and the recruits themselves.
Now a functional training facility for the Iraqi police, riot police and the regular Iraqi Army, the base was originally slated to be a Republican Guard Division Post under the former regime, according to Wes Watson, area engineer for the Corps' Gulf Region South District (GRS).
"The base was 85 percent complete, and then something happened; maybe the former regime ran out of money," said Watson. "The design was modular; Yugoslavian made. It's very nice construction, very durable. It stood abandoned probably until the summer of 2003. After we invaded and the Marine Corps left the area, it was looted to the bone."
Watson said that every roof tile, floor tile, every electrical system component, water pipes and drainage tiles were stolen, and that the only things surviving were the skeletal remains of the buildings.
"Our scope of work called for us to come in and renovate the facility," he said. "We started construction Feb. 17, 2004 and it is still ongoing. We are doing it in essentially four phases. To get water to the base, we pulled 17 kilometers of pipe from the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers into the base. We have constructed ranges and training firing ranges on the base, and we have used local labor. My guess is that, because the numbers fluctuate, we employ anywhere from 1,500 to 3,500 people at once."
The $150 million project includes the headquarters, and the kitchen, laundry and warehouse facilities, and a mosque. Watson said the facility will be the "lynchpin of the new Iraqi army in the Shiite south. Once an Iraqi Army is trained, that facility will become the headquarters for one of the Southern Divisions for the Army - depending on how many divisions they end up having."
An Iraqi military base is not like an American base, according to Staff Sgt. Jerome D. Caruthers, Air Force civil engineer and production control manager. The Iraqi base resembles an American basic training facility such as Fort Jackson, S.C., or Lackland Air Force Base, in Texas.
"This base has two different kinds of training," said Caruthers. "One side is CMATT - Coalition Military Assistance Training Team. The American military here, about 150 of them, assist with the regular Iraqi Army training. The other side, CPATT or Coalition Police Assistance Training Team, handles security personnel. Once completed, the base will be able to house up to 12,000 troops."
Caruthers explained that CPATT trains personnel in military police techniques and also has a special forces operations training program, which includes a shooting house, a facility set up with targets and a place to practice close-quarters battles, a part of urban warfare. An Australian contractor works with the trainees, he said.
The two types of infantry training at the base will be merged because of the need to put more troops on the ground. The first type is the border patrol and the second is the infantry, or ground troops. These volunteers will see action upon their graduation from the training, which takes about six weeks. Infantry movement techniques under direct fire, with the shoot-move-communicate strategy, and a basic training course are taught by Iraqi noncommissioned officers who went through a special course to teach them how to train troops.
"American soldiers are acting as observers and taking notes, advising the NCOs on things to stress and different teaching strategies," said Caruthers. "We're adding an obstacle course to improve the training level."
When Caruthers arrived at the base three months ago, his purpose was to act as the facilities manager. Since he noted that some facilities were already under construction, he trained himself to be a quality assurance inspector by working with the Corps' field office and credits them for helping him develop his current position.
"I would go to the Corps' offices to see how I could help them," he said. "I would ask what problems they were having, and they'd take me out to all the job sites to meet the contractors. I started gathering information, with the help of Frank Kalisz and Joe Faustina, I got into a niche. So, when the base commander, Army Lt. Col. Mark Harvey, needed information, I could go to the appropriate source."
Soldiers have been at the base for six months, said Caruthers. In the beginning, the training was as rough as the construction, due to a system without checks and balances. However, things are going much more smoothly now.
"We started hiring local contractors," he said, "and, at first, they were using substandard materials - things that were available locally. Now, they inspect for quality before the materials are purchased and that has helped a great deal. We have also learned to write things into the contracts that we take for granted in the United States; we are adapting and things are running smoother."
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