MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq -Soldiers of 17th Iraqi Army Division trained with a sergeant of 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team recently to establish a public affairs unit at the joint communications center in Mahmudiyah which is located south of Baghdad.

Sgt. Waine Haley, the noncommissioned officer in charge of public affairs, taught a week-long class at the 17th Division compound, focusing on writing skills, basic camera techniques and helping asses the unit's broadcasting equipment and skills.

"The class was set-up to access their equipment and determine which individuals were able to meet the criteria of working in public affairs," said Haley, of Beckley, W. Va. "The Iraqi military is taking a huge step forward with this class; it's not just about combat anymore."

The Soldiers received hands-on training with cameras and computer software programs, and were given writing and photography assignments.

In the end, two Iraqi Army Soldiers completed the class, Sgt. Saad Salim Khashan and Maj. Daham Majid Mohammad.

"Khashan had an untapped skill that was really phenomenal," said Haley.

Public affairs, as a job position is new to Iraqi Soldiers. Usually the division's Staff Maj. Gen. Ali Jassam Mohammad is responsible for conducting all matters of public affairs.

"During the class, I tried to teach them the job and techniques on how to address the general['s needs] so he would utilize them and all the work wouldn't fall on him," said Haley.

The Iraqi public affairs unit will also include a broadcasting element for the base's small station, which covers the city of Mahmudiyah. Three Iraqi civilians are now employed at the station from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"When I first arrived at the station they played non-stop music," said Haley. "Now they report local and national news. I had to get them thinking outside the box for news information by checking newspapers, Internet sites, and tips from the public."

Eventually the radio station plans to extend its hours to 10 p.m. and sell advertising to sustain itself so it will not have to rely solely on the support of the Iraqi Army.

Haley will be returning to Mahmudiyah in the coming weeks to train more soldiers for the division's public affairs team.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16