By Sgt. 1st Class Ron Burke
BAGHDAD – Sixty-nine Iraqi Army Soldiers stood at attention on the parade field at al-Muthana Air Base, here, Oct. 19, during a graduation ceremony for the first class of the Karkh Area Command Strike Team.
IA Soldiers from six different units, that formed the new team, trained together for six weeks under the tutelage of combat advisors from the U.S. Air Force, special operations, the KAC Advisory Team, and D Troop, Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division.
Training focused on movement and weapons skills, advanced small unit tactics, mounted combat patrols, intelligence gathering, explosives ordinance disposal, and physical fitness training, which culminated in a combat patrol in west Rashid.
“This is the first class of the Strike Team that will eventually number over 400 Soldiers,” said Capt. John Stires, of Palatine, Ill., the KAC Advisory Team operations officer. “The Strike Team will be responsible for all quick response operations for Multi-National Division—Baghdad west of the Tigris River.”
The Strike Team was formed from collaborations between Iraqi Staff Gen. Ali Hamadi, the Karkh Area Commander and Brig. Gen. Frederick Rudesheim, the deputy commanding general for support with MND-B.
“We are honored that you are the first members of the Strike Team,” said Ali during the ceremony. “We will serve Iraq, the Iraqi citizens and ensure security in Baghdad from insurgents and terrorists. We are very proud of the Karkh area units and this training class. Our thanks to Coalition forces who helped mold the Strike Team.”
The Soldiers of D Troop, who trained the IA Soldiers, reflected on the last six weeks they’ve spent with them before the ceremony.
“These [IA] Soldiers have a lot of combat experience but no specific methods,” said Sgt. Jose Munoz, a KAC instructor assigned to D Troop, DSTB, 1st Cav. Div. “We’re teaching them how to be more effective and make them better Soldiers,” said the Santa Barbara, Calif. native.
Sgt. Juan Bracero, another KAC instructor from Chicago, also assigned to D Troop, added that training goes back to muscle memory and they showed the Iraqis how to execute day-to-day operations and pretty soon they started doing everything on their own.
“We’ve accomplished something here,” said Spc. Ervin Lee, a cavalry scout from Columbiana, Ohio. “They knew the principles of things like room clearing and we fine-tuned that. Now they’ll be able to teach more of their own guys.”
The IA soldiers’ enthusiasm and dedication did not go unnoticed.
“We know you’ve worked hard to get here,” said Rudesheim during his speech to the Soldiers standing in formation. “You are proud examples of the Iraqi Army and your mission is more important than gaining trust. It’s about demonstrating to the Iraqi people that you can function as an elite unit within the Iraqi Army.”
With the sun was settling below the horizon, the Strike Team was called to attention, the command signaling the end of the ceremony. It may have been the end of the day, but it was the beginning of a new chapter for the IA and its Strike Team.