One of the current, major focuses in the U.S. Army is the continuous drawdown of troops in Iraq. Read below how the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team is during their job to prepare the Iraqi Army for this transition.
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE KALSU, Iraq – They sat across from one another and sipped chai in plastic cups. The commander of the 32nd Brigade, 8thIraqi Army’s commando company, Capt. Mahoud Nasir Mahandi, lit a cigarette and offered one to his guest.
The first sergeant of Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, 1stSgt. David Eastabrooks, declined.
“The last thing I need to do is pick up smoking,” he said with a smile.
Mahandi waited for the interpreter to translate and smiled at the response.
The two leaders have seen each other several times since Eastabrook’s company arrived to Wasit Province in October.
Eastabrooks, a native of Columbus, Ga., and his men had worked with the commandos on room clearing procedures, crowd control and reflexive fire techniques in several joint training sessions prior to the Iraqi National Elections.
During the elections, Eastabrook’scompany was on stand by to assist Mahandi’s men; if their assistance was needed. The Iraqi Soldiers never called, but the Iraqi commander thanked them for their help, anyway.
“We didn’t do anything,” said Eastabrooks. “It was all you guys. We were here just in case. Your guys did great.”
“Yes, but we enjoyed the training,” responded Mahandi. “We would like more of it. It was very helpful.”
For about 20 minutes, the two leaders outlined possible times for training. Now that the elections are over, Mahandi’s men will start taking leaveover the next month. His unit also has mandatory Iraqi Army training that they must complete.
“Just let me know your schedule and when it would be convenient for you,” said Eastabrooks. “We’ll be here any day you want us to be.”
After going through the calendar, the two came up with some tentative dates.
Before he left, Eastabrooks emphasized the importance of Mahandi’s non-commissioned officers during the training process.
“I understand your system is very officer focused, but I need you to trust them to uphold your standard,” he said. “If you have a good relationship with them, they will make you look good.”
Mahandi assured Eastabrooks that he and his NCOs are on the same page.
Out in the Commando Company’s compound, Mahandi’s Soldiers were washing their vehicles and tidying the area.
Eastabrook’s Soldiers stood by their vehicles and watched it all as they spoke among themselves. Most of them havehelped their first sergeant train the same Soldiers. All of the platoon sergeants are currently on their second deployment in Iraq and have seen the difference between the Iraq Army in 2008 and the Iraqi Army in 2010.
“They are a lot more professional now,” said Staff Sgt. George Sumrall, a scout in Troop C from Opelika, Ala. “They use their NCOs more and they show a lot more discipline and pride in what they do.”
Sumrall, who has worked with the Iraqi Army on a limited basis at Patrol Base Assassin on his last deployment, said that Iraqi Soldiers he works with now work harder and use more advanced tactics than the ones he worked with before.
“Most of them have good habits,” he said. “They wear their body armor, they have muzzle awareness, they clear dead space and they accomplish their mission every time. They don’t wait for us to do everything. They want to be out front. That is a huge improvement from last time.”
According to Eastabrooks, the Iraqi Army is becoming a better more professional organization because it has focused on giving more responsibility to its NCO corp.
“We’ve really emphasized letting their NCOs learn what we teach and then letting them take that back to their Soldiers and teach it,” he said. “The Iraqis enjoy the training; they really do. We taught a class here a few weeks ago andwhen we rolled back up a few days later; they were out in their compound practicing it. They are eager to get better.”
As the meeting came to an end, Eastabrooks asked if Mahandi needed anything. The Iraqi captain assured him that he is fine, but Eastabrooks noticed his sidearm didn’t have a magazine.
“Where is your magazine?” he asked.
The commando company’s captain replied that the Iraqi Army was running low on ammunition for his sidearm, but that he should be getting some by the summer.
Without pausing, Eastabrooks took out his sidearm’s magazine and started ejecting the rounds into his palm. As his security counter-part used his hands to tell him to stop, Eastabrooks casually placed all of his rounds into the commander’s right hand.
“I can get more,” Eastabrooks said. “I can’t have you walking around unarmed. Whenever you get some in, you can get it back to me.”
The Iraqi commander nodded uncomfortably and assured the first sergeant that he will return.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Eastabrooks. “If you can get it back, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s all right, too. We’re partners in this. All that matters is that we are getting the job done.”
Visit http://www.hammerpao.com/ to read more about what the 3rd HBCT is doing in Iraq.