A lieutenant general and five command sergeants major from the Iraqi army saw the Maneuver Center in action last week — and leaders pledged an “enduring partnership” on the eve of a full U.S. withdrawal from the country.
The contingent observed a wide range of Infantry, Armor and basic combat training across Fort Benning during the three-day stop, which took place Wednesday through Friday. It’s part of a two-week U.S. trip that also will take the group to Fort Polk, La., and Fort Bliss, Texas.
American military escorts from United States Forces-Iraq said the Command Sergeant Major Professional Development Exchange is aimed at illustrating how the U.S. Army has shaped the development of the Iraqi army and its noncommissioned officer corps.
“Officers build capacity through their NCOs. That’s what we want to show them,” said Sgt. Maj. Charles Room, who serves on the commander’s action group of the USF-I deputy commanding general.
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The Iraqis attended numerous events here, including Infantry Soldiers in one station unit training taking on Eagle Tower and the Malone MOUT range, a basic training company practicing urban operations and M-1 Abrams tank system maintainers in advanced individual training on Harmony Church. They caught Airborne and Ranger demonstrations, toured several post facilities and classrooms, and visited the National Infantry Museum.
The delegation was expected to survey unit training at Fort Polk and check out Fort Bliss’ U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy to get the “full spectrum of Army training,” said Lt. Col. Greg Solem, a combat adviser to the Iraqi Ground Forces Command’s deputy commanding general and chief of staff.
“They’ll get a better vision for our training and the various steps involved, but it will also help them understand that the NCO is truly the backbone of our Army and critical to success,” he said. “It’s been invaluable to the lieutenant general and their sergeants major to capture that vision. In Iraq and other countries, there’s a huge divide between officers and enlisted. Here, the command sergeant major and commanding officer work together as a team.”
On Wednesday, the Iraqis went to the Cashe Town Training Facility on Sand Hill, where they watched urban operations training for C Company, 3rd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment. The Soldiers, operating in four-man teams, worked on the skills needed to enter and clear a room.
“It’s nice to have an opportunity with which to share how the U.S. Army trains Soldiers,” said Lt. Col. Kurt Thompson, the battalion commander. “It’s something we’re proud of — how the drill sergeants do their job and how professional they are. They take civilians and turn them into Soldiers in 10 short weeks.
“This happened to be for the Iraqis, which is fantastic, because that’s a capacity they need to have. This also validates their own training systems, and could expose them to some new and different ideas.”
Iraqi army Lt. Gen. Jalal Riyadh, the IGFC’s deputy commanding general, said being a Soldier carries significant meaning and honor in both nations.
“We have served and fought with the U.S. Army in so many operations in Iraq,” he said through an interpreter. “We all started out as civilians. Learning and training in the Army — the sky is the limit for us.”
The Iraqi team’s entire U.S. trip was built around a “transcendent cause,” Solem said.
“We will continue to build an enduring partnership,” he said. “Even though U.S. forces are leaving at the end of the year, our partnership will go on.”