ISF section turns new corner
June 16, 2009
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The Iraqi Security Forces section of the 10th Sustainment Brigade here said it has shifted away from its role as trainers to the Iraqi Army and is now in the early mentorship phase of its partnership with them. The 10th Sust. Bde. ISF section oversees three logistics training and advisory teams which are partnered with two third-line maintenance facilities -- one here and one at Camp Rustamiyah and Iraq's General Transportation Regiment. "We're at the point now where we pretty much mirror and job-shadow the Iraqis," said Sgt. Thomas B. Yates, a Soldier of the 776th Maintenance Company and a logistics trainer and adviser with the Taji Third-Line Maintenance Facility LTAT. Yates, who is from Bon Aqua, Tenn., said he and other members still answer questions and do on-the-spot training when needed. At the Taji Third-Line Maintenance Facility - a shop that supports three Iraqi Army divisions and other units on Camp Taji - Iraqi Soldiers are able to do repairs not possible just a few months ago, LTAT advisers said. Iraqi Army Warrant Officer Adil Naam Kareem, the senior enlisted Iraqi Soldier at the facility, said previously if a vehicle in his shop had an engine problem, a new engine would be installed - now his Soldiers are able to diagnose and correct specific problems. "We make many, many attempts to fix a vehicle before we condemn it," Kareem said. "They've achieved a great deal," Yates said. "They really take pride in their work." Progress is visible elsewhere too. When the General Transportation Regiment - an Iraqi support unit of about 680 Soldiers that transports supplies to locations across Iraq - was created in September 2008, its LTAT consisted of nearly 60 trainers and advisers. As the GTR progressed in its ability to run itself, the number of advisers were cut to just eight. The team was recently replaced by a team of five. "The GTR right now is pretty self-sufficient," said Capt. Sean L. Pilker, a Soldier with the 68th Trans. Co. and the officer in charge of the GTR LTAT. "We're very much hands-off right now." Since it began running missions in November, the GTR has experienced no significant incidents on the road and has covered 33,605 kilometers, said Pilker, who is a resident of Riverdale, N. J. While many Soldiers said overall operations are going well, there have been some difficulties acquiring spare parts - especially for the civilian vehicles used by the Iraqi Army. Many Soldiers say it has also been a challenge to work within the Iraqi Army's system - a system that is both different in organization and rank structure than the U.S. Army. "As with anything else with the Iraqis we have to understand that it is not our system, and we need to assist them in working their system," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 10th Sust. Bde. ISF section. But whether it's the maintenance facilities or it's the GTR, the end goal is the same: Iraqi units operating free of Coalition support, a goal which Iraqi commanders here have said they will be ready for.